Christopher High senior Jaelynn Corona celebrates a lead-off hit in the CIF NorCal Regional Division V Championship on June 1. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
music in the park san jose

Early in the season, Christopher softball was struggling. The Cougars dropped their first three games by a cumulative score of 24-3. By April 8, they were still just 5-8. Wow, did things come together after that.

Christopher won 12 of their next 15 games. The Cougars qualified for the Central Coast Section playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2018, coach Amanda Tellez’ first season. And they excelled beyond dreams in a spectacular playoff run, winning four games and reaching both a CCS final and a CIF NorCal final.

In CCS Division IV action, CHS beat Notre Dame San Jose 4-3 and Cupertino 11-4 to reach the first final in school history, where they fell to Aragon.

The Cougars continued their season, as they received a bid to the CIF NorCal playoffs for the first time in school history. In NorCal Division V play, CHS blasted Lowell 16-6 and went on the road to vanquish Los Molinos 6-0. That advanced them into a NorCal title game, where they lost to Big Valley Christian.

“It is amazing to be still playing in June,” said Tellez, before the Cougars faced off with Big Valley Christian School in Madera.

The idea of even reaching the CCS playoffs was uncertain for quite a while. Christopher closed strongly enough to get an at-large bit. Playing softball into June was a distant dream. That and the two title game appearances all came true.

“We improved so much over the season,” Tellez said. “It was a roller coaster of a season, with some ups and downs. We’ve definitely never made it this far before.”

Injuries and ineligibility dogged the team early. As players returned and the lineup came together, the squad jelled. 

Beginning on April 10, CHS ran off a seven-game win streak, scoring 12 or more runs in five of the contests. They smashed Soledad 12-2, Pioneer 13-2, Silver Creek 6-5, Prospect 16-3, Piedmont Hills 12-6, Oak Grove 14-5 and upended league leader Lincoln 7-6. 

After a loss to Gilroy in the annual Sarah Villar Memorial Game, they closed the regular season with a 6-5 victory over Pioneer.

The red-hot finish propelled the Cougars up in the Blossom Valley Athletic League, Santa Teresa Division standings. CHS finished 10-2, just a game behind Lincoln.

“We came out a little rough in the beginning,” co-captain Jaelynn Corona said. “We began getting closer as a team.”

Co-captain Zoe Griffin added that the players began playing more unselfishly, playing for each other.

The successful season was based on fantastic hitting. Melissa Lugo and Corona were two of the best at the plate. Lugo smacked 45 hits in 84 appearances for a phenomenal .536 average. She was also the team’s speed merchant, stealing an incredible 33 bases. Corona often hit leadoff and was 24-for-48 for a .500 average.

But it wasn’t just those two. The Cougars succeeded because they received big offensive contributions up and down the lineup. Griffin hit 28-for-87 for a .322 mark and led the team with 32 RBIs. Chevelle Quistian was 27-for-81 for .333 and had three triples and 20 RBIs. 

Jenessa de la Cruz was 17-for-43 for a .395 mark, Alyssa Farrow was 23-70 for .329 and knocked in 22 runs. Brianna Diaz Cruz was 20-for-56 for .357 and freshman Bella Loredo was 27-for-82 for .329.

On the mound, Danielle Keller and Chanel Lucio were double dynamite, giving coach Tellez two solid options in the circle.

CCS playoffs

The CCS opener was a nailbiter. The Cougars scored two in the bottom of the first, Notre Dame tied it in the top of the third and Christopher replied with a tally to take a 3-2 lead. CHS added an insurance run in the sixth for the 4-2 final. 

The Cougars were led by Farrow, Corona and Lugo, each with two hits, Farrow’s two RBIs and Lugo’s two steals. Keller held the Regents to just three hits.

In the subsequent game against Cupertino, both teams were scoring early. The scoreboard read 4-4 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. In that frame, the homestanding Cougars exploded for seven runs to gain the lead and put the game in the icebox. 

Once again, contributions came from everywhere in the batting order. Griffin, Quistian, Lugo, Farrow, Diaz Cruz and Loredo each had two hits. Griffin knocked in three runs and Quistian and Loredo each had two RBIs. Keller pitched and got the win.

That moved Christopher into the program’s first-ever CCS final. In a late-morning contest at West Valley JC, Aragon came out with strong hitting and beat Christopher 11-0. 

Afterward, Corona vowed that the team would take a lesson from it and use that in NorCals. They sure did, with two decisive wins. Tellez also echoed the squad’s upcoming approach on that Saturday afternoon.

”We didn’t play our game,” Tellez said. “I’ll give credit to Aragon. They came out hitting the ball. We talked to the girls. It hurts to lose but don’t hang your heads. It’s the first time in school history we’ve been here. NorCals is another situation we’ve never been to. We’re going to have fun with it.”

In the first NorCal match in school history, Christopher drilled Lowell 16-6. The Cardinals, fresh off a San Francisco Section title, entered the match with a record of 16-4. 

The Cougars plated three runs in the first, five in the third, three more in the fourth and five more in the sixth. Diaz Cruz and de la Cruz each had three hits and Corona; Lugo and Laredo all had two hits apiece. 

Farrow knocked in six runs and Lugo stole three bases. Lucio pitched for Christopher and earned the win.

After that, Christopher traveled up I-5 to the small town of Los Molinos, north of Chico and just south of Redding. The Bulldogs were Northern Section runners-up and were averaging 10 runs a game. Yet they did not score against the Cougars’ tandem of Keller and Lucio, tabulating just seven hits for the day as CHS won 6-0 behind a 13-hit attack. 

Lugo had three hits and two steals. Farrow, de la Cruz and Griffin each collected two hits and Griffin knocked in two runs.

For the NorCal final, Christopher got back on the bus and traveled to Madera. Big Valley Christian pitcher Ava Hernandez was in control in a 10-0 run-rule five-inning shutout. Hernandez recorded 10 of the 15 outs via strikeouts. BVCS’ Morgan Merzon hit two homers for the Lions.

“We didn’t adjust today,” Tellez said. “She was throwing the riseball and we were chasing it. And they came out hitting the ball. But we’ve had an exciting run and tried to establish a good program with good kids.”

Christopher High’s Chanel Lucio prepares to deliver a pitch in the championship game on June 1. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
Christopher High senior Jenessa De La Cruz records a base hit in the fifth inning of the regional championship game. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
Previous article19-year-old woman killed in collision in Morgan Hill
Next articleLetter: A Message to Graduates


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here