SALINAS — Aptos High School’s Michelle Firebaugh and Rita McChreesh both knew that no matter the result of Saturday afternoon’s playoff game against Soquel, they’d both continue playing softball next year.
Sadly, just not for the same team.
The Aptos Mariners’ run in the Central Coast Section Division III softball playoffs came to a close in an 8-4 loss to the Soquel Knights at the Salinas Sports Complex.
“It’s sad,” said McCreesh of her time at Aptos coming to an end, “but it was fun. We played well as a team, and we got to know each other better.”
McCreesh officially signed her letter of intent on Wednesday for the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash.
The hard-hitting first baseman has played at the varsity level since her freshman year, and was a part of two Mariners’ teams that won Santa Cruz Coastal Athletic League Championships, one in her freshman and another during her sophomore year.
Firebaugh, on the other hand, will be back on the mound for her senior year at Aptos.
“I’m absolutely happy with the way we did,” said Firebaugh. “It’s bitter sweet, but you just have to keep your chin up, and there’s always next season.”
The Mariners will have nine of their 12 players coming back for another run in the SCCAL and CCS.
However, next season was the last thing on the Mariners’ minds on Saturday, as they had to face the Knights’ ace Ana Gurr, and through the first five innings the rivalry was as advertised.
A tight, pitchers duel.
Both Gurr and Firebaugh went the distance for their respective teams. Gurr finished the day with seven hits, four strikeouts and the win.
Firebaugh gave up 12 hits, two walks and threw three strikeouts in a losing effort.
With the score 4-1, in favor of the Knights, McCreesh crossed the plate in the top of the sixth off of an error to bring them within two runs.
But the Knights scored four more runs during their ups in the sixth inning, two of them coming by way of a Makenna Provancha two-shot home run, to give them their largest lead of the game at six.
Firebaugh hit a two-run homer of her own in the final inning, but that was all cosmetic, and the Knights took the win, and moved on to the CCS semifinals.
The Mariners had faced the Knights twice before Saturday. They split the two games in the rivalry.
The Knights took the first game 9-5 by regrouping after Aptos had taken a 3-0 lead after the first inning.
Soquel scored nine runs in four innings, six of them coming in the fifth, and staved off a late Mariner rally for the first win.
The Mariners got the best of the Knights in the second meeting. After going into extra innings tied at one, the Knights scored two runs to take a 3-1 lead. Aptos fought back and Marrissa Bugayong brought in two runs to win the game and even the season series at one a piece.
Last season a run through CCS, or even making it to the playoffs, was out of the question for the Mariners as they ended their season at an underwhelming 7-17.
“We’ve grown as people through this season too,” said Firebaugh. “You lose six seniors and you have rebuild from the ground up, so having this year while we’re still growing, I just think there’s so much potential, and so much growth.”
Nicole Getzschmann went 2-3 and crossed the plate once for the Mariners. Firebaugh had a good day with the bat finishing with three RBIs off of a single and her home run in the final inning.
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