Sierra College splits doubleheader with Delta Collge

Wolverines stay on top in Big 8
By: Matt Folsom Placer Herald Sports Correspondent
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After suffering a 10-8 loss to San Joaquin Delta College in the opener of Thursday’s critical Big 8 Conference doubleheader in Rocklin, the Sierra College softball team headed into game two facing as close to a must-win game as a team can have with eight games left in the regular season. The result was a gut-check 5-0 win over the Mustangs that thrust the Wolverines back into sole possession of first place in the rugged Big 8. Thanks to a superb two-hitter from Sierra sophomore pitcher Katie Bell, the win gave the Wolverines (27-5 overall, 11-2 Big 8) a two-games-to-one season series win over the defending conference champion Mustangs (25-6, 10-2) and some much-needed momentum heading into next week’s road games at archrivals Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College. Sierra head coach Darci Brownell underscored the importance of coming back after the disappointing game one loss. “Winning the second game was huge for us,” she said. “Of course, knowing what’s coming up for us next week, it would have been a much tougher road for us had we lost both games. Now we just have to do our job.” Game two Sophomore center fielder Leesha Shoemaker set the tone for the late game with a leadoff triple down the first base line. Even though Shoemaker was eventually stranded at third, it was clear Sierra meant business as Jenna Thorne ripped a line drive to right for the first out and Taylor McGregor hit a wicked grounder to short to end the inning. Bell was in control right from the start. While not overpowering – she finished with two strikeouts – she let her defense do the work, getting the Mustangs to fly out in five of their first nine at bats. McGregor was a brick wall at short, starting 6-3 putouts twice in the third and fifth innings and nailing Mustang pitcher Jessyca Rico at third on a cutoff throw in the fourth. Sierra pushed across the only run it would need in the second on Shoemaker’s RBI single that scored Amanda Wright, who had singled three batters earlier. The Shoemaker hit could have been even more productive if not for a perfect throw from Delta right fielder Sam Lorigo that caught Kacy Romero 3 feet from the plate to end the inning. While Bell was keeping the Mustangs quiet, the Wolverine bats decided to make some noise in the bottom of the third. Thorne led off with a can-of-corn fly to right that Lorigo mishandled for a three-base error. Thorne was soon trotting home after Annette Merjano launched her 12th home run of the season into the crowd watching the Sierra College/Santa Rosa baseball game next door. A Merjano double that scored Shoemaker followed back-to-back, two-out singles from Shoemaker and Thorne in the fourth inning. A walk to Ashley Osier filled the bases with Wolverines, but a soaring fly ball out to left from McGregor ended what could have been a monster inning for Sierra. In the bottom of the sixth, Thorne singled and advanced to third on an error by Delta shortstop Kris Deanda on a Merjano grounder, and then scored on a wild pitch for the final Wolverine run. Bell struck out a looking Val Freeman for the second out in the top of the seventh and then Shoemaker gathered in Mila Jones’ fly at the center field fence to end the game. Brownell was ecstatic over the performance of two of her sophomore leaders. “Katie Bell pitched very well. She let only a handful of batters reach base,” she said afterward. “And Leesha Shoemaker was huge. After all the homers we’ve been hitting, we went small-ball today and that really helped, especially in the second game.” The head coach’s praise of Bell was echoed by assistant Rich Murray, who said, “I can’t say enough about Katie Bell. When she’s in a groove, her ball stays down and our defense gets to do its job.” The win, coupled with an American River sweep Thursday of the previously undefeated Modesto Jr. College Pirates, leapfrogged Sierra back into first place in the Big 8 with an 11-2 mark. Delta is just behind at 10-2, followed by Modesto at 8-2. Recent rainouts have played havoc with the schedule, giving the Wolverines a one game games-played cushion on the Mustangs and a three game advantage on the Pirates. The only game Sierra has missed was Tuesday’s home game against Santa Rosa. The Bear Cubs appeared to have misread the schedule and thought the game was to be played Wednesday rather than Tuesday. That game’s status – it may be rescheduled or result in a Santa Rosa forfeit – is under review. Game one Although it took four innings to really get rolling, Delta’s offense made a statement on the game’s first pitch as Mustang shortstop Kris Deanda lined a shot off the center field fence for a double. Jessyca Rico, playing third base in the first game, followed with a single on the next pitch, moving Deanda to third. Rico stole second and, in the wink of an eye, Delta had two runners in scoring position with no outs. Sierra pitcher Emily Snow must have taken the offensive backtalk personally as she struck out Erica Mireles and got Mia King and Taylor Davis to fly out to end the Mustang scoring threat. Snow followed that up with consecutive three-and-outs in the second and third. But, the Wolverine freshman wouldn’t last another inning. Everything looked to be going Sierra’s way offensively in the bottom of the third when they struck for five runs off Mustang pitcher Kelsie Monroe. Shoemaker and Thorne singled to open the inning and loaded the bases on a walk to Merjano. Ashley Osier then roped a two-run single up the middle that moved Merjano to third. Michelle Fogal followed with a single to again load them up and set the table for the incendiary Amanda Wright, who last week blasted a grand slam and a three-run homer at American River College. Wright continued her hot streak by lacing a three-run triple to left and it was 5-0, Sierra. After getting Mireles looking to open the top of the fourth, Snow gave up a single to Mia King and then walked Lorigo. Delta center fielder Rachel Frasier knocked in King with a looping fly to short left that just scooted under the glove of diving Sierra left fielder Jessica Snow. Freeman followed that up with a two-run single that drove Emily Snow from the game and made it 5-3, Sierra. Reliever Osier fared no better than Snow in the fifth. Deanda and Rico led off with doubles and Deanda scored on a Mireles sacrifice fly to right. Osier plunked King, who then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Lorigo came up after Taylor Davis grounded out to Kacy Romero at second and promptly gave Delta a 7-5 lead with a two-run homer to right center. The Mustangs extended their lead to 10-5 in the top of the seventh as Sierra imploded. After King opened the inning with a single, Osier gave up two walks and hit two batters, one HBP forcing in a run with the bases loaded. Osier departed for reliever Bell, who got Mireles to ground to second for the final out. But the Wolverines would not go quietly in the bottom of the seventh. Shoemaker led off with a double and Merjano walked. That brought up Osier, the state’s top home run hitter. The sophomore from Rio Linda hit a screaming line drive homer, her 14th of the year, over center that left the yard in a matter of seconds, driving in three and giving Sierra, now down only 10-8, some hope. The comeback stalled when McGregor and Fogal grounded out to Deanda at short. While disappointed with her team’s first conference home loss, Brownell was upbeat as she addressed her team after the game. “Let’s see what we’re made of,” she calmly stated. “I’m really proud of the way we came back, but we’re not going to win any games when we let 18 batters get on base. We can still win the season series with them by winning the next game. Let’s not let them take two at our house.” Bell saw to it that didn’t happen. Big 8 Conference Softball Game 1 SJ Delta College 000 340 3 – 10 11 0 Sierra College 005 000 3 – 8 8 1 WP: Monroe (17-4) LP: Osier (13-2) Game 2 SJ Delta College 000 000 0 – 0 2 2 Sierra College 012 101 - – 5 12 1 WP: Bell (8-2) LP: Rico (2-2)