WATSONVILLE — The gloves were in the air.
The sparkling cider was, too.
Alicia Mendez, however, was nowhere to be seen.
“I took off,” Mendez said. “I ran out of there. I didn’t want to get wet.”
Mendez was as untouchable after the game as she was during it.
St. Francis High’s star freshman pitcher tossed a four-hit shutout and the Sharks’ offense exploded for a seven-run inning to clinch a share of the program’s first-ever league title with an 11-0 win over Monte Vista Christian Tuesday.
The Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress division leaders split their previous two meetings with each team scoring a blowout win at home. But St. Francis (19-9, 11-4) flipped the script on M.V.C. (12-9, 11-4) to steal a share of the crown and earn the postgame celebratory Martinelli’s shower and glove toss.
“We get to put a banner up in our gym next to all the other ones from the other sports,” Mendez said. “Everyone was wanting it. Freshman year, to start it off like that, and finishing it for the seniors, I’m pretty happy.”
Mendez notched seven strikeouts and her defense was steady in helping her keep a heavy-hitting M.V.C. team off the board for the first time since March.
Her offense was strong, too, as the Sharks racked up 12 hits, including Angie Heredia’s monster three-run homer that capped off the team’s sixth-inning blitz and all but started the celebration.
“After I touched home I realized that was one of the most beautiful pitches I’ve ever seen,” said Heredia, a junior. “It was so nice. It was right there. Right down the pipe.”
Heredia — a transfer from current powerhouse Watsonville High — finished 3-for-4 with five RBIs. She also smacked a two-run double in the fifth inning to give St. Francis a 4-0 cushion.
Senior Lena Ciandro gave the Sharks the initial lead with a sac fly in the third and Mendez made it 2-0 with an RBI single.
Heredia doubled the score two innings later and the Sharks piled on seven more runs in the sixth.
Ciandro — one of only two seniors on the team — went 2-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs. The stud catcher also made an impressive tag at the plate on a sliding runner in the early goings to keep the score knotted at zeros.
Mendez also hit a double and scored twice to go along with her strong day in the circle.
“The future looks so bright,” said St. Francis coach Art Doten. “We’re talking about a freshman here pitching in these big games. She rose up to the occasion. She’s a hard worker. She wants to get better and she’s going to.”
Mendez allowed two early hits but settled in following a stressful first inning and retired seven straight batters before surrendering a double to junior Kendall McPhillips.
M.V.C.’s star senior pitcher Samantha Baer dinged Mendez for a single in the sixth inning, but it was far too little and far too late for the Mustangs to mount a comeback.
“We knew [the Sharks] were going to come out wanting it really badly,” said M.V.C. coach Shelley Chavez. “We wanted it too, but they had a day where they put the bat on the ball and we just didn’t. That’s what it came down to.”
The two squads will share the league title but by virtue of winning the three-game season series St. Francis will take the division’s Central Coast Section playoffs play-in game.
The Sharks will need to beat North Salinas High, a third-place finisher in the PCAL-Mission, on Thursday to earn an automatic postseason berth.
M.V.C., meanwhile, will have to apply for an at-large bid and hope it makes the cut at Sunday’s seeding meeting.
“We’ll see what the cards hold for us and we’ll go from there,” Chavez said.
Editor's Note: This article will be published in the May 10 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.