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Branham comeback falls short as Monterey holds on late to advance to CCS D-I title game

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SAN JOSE — Jason Yco couldn’t hold back his emotions after Branham’s 4-3 loss to Monterey on Thursday. 

The usually mild-mannered, soft-spoken head coach shed tears when asked what this season meant to him in a postgame interview following the Bruins’ defeat in the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals. 

“They just competed all year,” Yco said. “They were never afraid of anything. This team was always ready for the moment. Every practice they had the music going, dancing and having fun. They bonded playing the game with passion and love. I’m just super proud of that.” 

Monterey softball players celebrate their 4-3 win as Branham's Jacqueline Connolly Hojas (2) walks off the field after flying out in the seventh inning of a CCS playoff game at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Monterey softball players celebrate their 4-3 win as Branham’s Jacqueline Connolly Hojas (2) walks off the field after flying out in the seventh inning of a CCS playoff game at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Seven-seeded Branham pushed No. 3 Monterey – the back-to-back CCS Division II champions – to the brink. But in the end, the Dores tapped into their championship experience to close out the Bruins late and advance to their third consecutive section title game where they will face No. 4 Salinas on Saturday at West Valley College. 

Monterey sophomore Ryanna Elliott had a three-run homer. Ella Myers was 2 for 3, had an RBI and pitched a complete game as she struck out five batters. 

Branham senior left fielder Alexis Bojorquez-Nava totaled two hits and an RBI. 

“It was tough because that was a really good ball club,” said Monterey coach Michael Royster. “Coming up here and running with these guys was not easy.”

Branham's Kaliya Yco (21) tags out Monterey's Ashley Gallagher (3) during a rundown between second and third as Eastin Jennings (14) takes advantage to score in the first inning of a CCS playoff game at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Branham’s Kaliya Yco (21) tags out Monterey’s Ashley Gallagher (3) during a rundown between second and third as Eastin Jennings (14) takes advantage to score in the first inning of a CCS playoff game at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Both teams were tied at one after two innings, but it felt like the Dores were going to blow the game open after the third. 

With two outs and two runners on, Elliott smacked a fastball which just barely sailed over the center field wall to give Monterey a 4-1 lead. 

“When she hit that shot, I was like, ‘we’re scoring,’” Royster said. “But when it hit the top of the wall and bounced over,  I said, ‘Oh my gosh that’s a three-run shot.’ It was exciting.”

Meanwhile, Myers’ fastball gave Branham hitters fits as she allowed just one hit in the first four innings. Branham’s first run of the game came on a fielding error in the second inning. 

But the Bruins got going in the fifth by an unusual interaction with the home plate umpire. 

Early in the fifth inning, Branham’s coaches were told the team would be handed a delay of game warning if players in the dugout continued to bang on the dugout fence while cheering. 

The Bruins and their fans took exception to that and only got louder as the game progressed. 

“When the umpire came over, we felt like we were getting to them,” Yco said.

Bojorquez-Nava added, “Our coaches just told us to be louder. Our whole thing with our team is to talk because when we do, we play even better. Everyone was just more hype and energetic.”

In the next at-bat after Branham’s conversation with the home plate judge, Bojorquez-Nava doubled and brought home Kaliya Yco to cut the Monterey lead to two runs. 

After a slow start, Branham pitcher Jacqueline Connolly Hojas ended her time in the pitcher’s circle allowing one hit while striking out two in her final three innings pitched. 

Branham pitcher Jacqueline Connolly Hojas (2) reacts after a strike out in the third inning of a CCS playoff game against Monterey High at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Branham pitcher Jacqueline Connolly Hojas (2) reacts after a strike out in the third inning of a CCS playoff game against Monterey High at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

With the season on the line, Bojorquez-Nava started the seventh hitting a lead-off double. 

In the next at-bat, senior Abigail Fales hit what looked like a single that just missed the glove of Monterey center fielder Jordyn McGrit in center field as Bojorquez-Nava advanced to third base. But after the officiating crew got together, the umpires ruled Elliott caught the ball for the first out of the inning and allowed Bojorquez-Nava to advance to third on a tag up. 

“That catch was a shoestringer,” Royster said. “That’s why I came out of the dugout because I thought the runner on second left early and I was trying to get that second out.”

In this controversial play, referees call a catch for an out by Monterey right fielder Jordyn McGirt (5) on a flyball by Branham High in the seventh inning of a CCS playoff game at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
In this controversial play, referees call a catch for an out by Monterey right fielder Jordyn McGirt (5) on a flyball by Branham High in the seventh inning of a CCS playoff game at MacDonald High School softball field in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

Bojorquez-Nava eventually reached home later in the inning on a ground out to make the score 4-3, but that was the last run Branham scored. The game ended when Monterey caught a fly ball to center field, denying Branham’s hopes of making it to its first section title game in school history. 



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