Sierra College puts lock on tie for Big 8 title

ARC falls 6-3
By: Matt Folsom Placer Herald Sports Correspondent
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Sierra College handed American River College a 6-3 loss Tuesday to put a lock on at least a tie for the Big 8 Conference crown. A win over Santa Rosa Wednesday would give them the title outright. Modesto Junior College Saturday, in a doubleheader with Modesto College, Sierra nearly set of the air raid sirens with seven home runs, including two grand slams. The Wolverines unloaded on the Pirates taking game one 9-4 and game two 16-1. The cardinal and white put an end to their five-game, small-ball winning streak by switching to heavy artillery and patching up the holes in their defense. Game one The Bucs scored first against Sierra but the Wolverines quickly answered and eventually posted a 9-4 win. Amanda Wright was the first to send one out bringing in Michelle Fogal for a 2-1 Sierra lead. While the Pirates were coming up empty in innings three and four, the Rocklin club added six more. In the fourth the Wolverines loaded the bases to give Wright the opportunity to collect her second grand slam of the season. In the fourth it was Ashley Osier’s turn to go deep and give Leesha Shoemaker an easy trip home. Osier’s blast was her 15th of the season tying her for the state lead. It also, for all intents and purposes, ended the game. Modesto picked up a pair of unearned runs in the top of the fourth but a diving putout at the plate by Annette Merjano ended the threat. The Bucs would get another in the seventh but that would do it. Merjano was 3-4 with a pair of doubles and Wright 2-3 with a pair of homers and six RBI. Osier struck out six in five innings for her 15th victory. Katie Bell got the save. Brownell warned against a letdown entering into the second game. “We have to tighten things up defensively,” she said. “We’ve got to cut out the mental errors and we have to keep them from getting on base. Let’s focus and put on a clinic in the next game.” Game two The Wolverines took Brownell literally, but words barely did justice to what transpired. The team’s potential – teamwork, power, defense and pitching – emerged under cloudless skies with temperatures in the low 90s. If Modesto was roughed up in game one, it was mauled in game two. Three Pirates’ pitchers had to endure the onslaught. Sierra went up 3-0 in the first highlighted by Osier’s second round-tripper of the day. Wolverine pitcher Emily Snow was in the groove, striking out five Pirates through three and her defense did the rest. Katie Romero and Merjano turned in a pair of defensive gems in the third to keep Modesto off the board. Sierra exploded for five runs in the bottom of the inning. With three on, McGregor cleared the bases with her 10th homer, and first grand slam, of the season. The freshman from Rio Americano took a change-up to deep left field and Sierra’s bats looked as hot as the mid-day sun. The Wolverines sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth to light up the Pirates for eight runs on eight hits. Modesto appeared to be throwing batting practice when Wright struck for her third jack of the day; a towering three-run homer to center. McGregor then followed with her second home run in just two innings to help give her club a 16-0 lead. Modesto got a run in the fifth but Snow ended the game with a strikeout. Sierra’s 14 hits were spread out from the top of the lineup to the bottom. Shoemaker had two, Merjano was 3-3 with three RBI, Osier was 2-3 with a homer and three RBI, Wright went 2-3 with a homer and four RBI, and McGregor had a pair of dingers that accounted for five RBI. Snow struck out seven and scattered five hits to earn a complete game win and improve to 8-1. Wright had a dream day going 4-6 in the two games with three home runs (including a grand slam) and 10 RBI. The sophomore from Rio Linda did similar to American River College three weeks ago going 4-5 with a two home-run (including a grand slam) seven RBI day. Big 8 co-leader San Joaquin Delta split a doubleheader with Diablo Valley dropping them a game behind Sierra. Diablo Valley College Brownell described it as “ugly,” but it was still an 8-1 win for the Wolverines last week. The game was moved from DVC to Sierra when the Viking’s field in Pleasant Hill was damaged. After blasting five home runs against the Vikes in earlier wins it looked like Sierra was swinging for the fences again, but without the same results. Nine of the first 12 Wolverine outs were on fly balls or line drives. Except for a run in the second inning, Diablo’s defense kept the Wolverines off the scoreboard. The cardinal and white didn’t score again until the top of the sixth. Osier and her defense had to step up in the fourth when the Vikings loaded the bases. Romero and Fogal each forced out a runner at home on two ground balls. Osier then fanned the next batter to get out of the inning. Sierra put an end to the drama in the sixth when Osier ripped a double to drive in Merjano. Ten Wolverines came to the plate with Osier, McGregor, Romero, Ande Martin and Shoemaker all scoring as Sierra went up 7-1. Fogal scored on Wright’s base hit in the seventh to end the scoring. DVC picked up a run in the bottom half of the inning to avoid the shutout. Osier struck out five and walked one to move to 14-2. Romero was the big bat for Sierra, going 3-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI. Brownell said afterward, “It’s always good to win you play badly, but we’ve got to pick it up. I don’t have an explanation for the way we’re playing.” With the crucial two-game sets against CRC and Modesto on tap, the Wolverines will be looking for some answers.