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Wolverines sack Sac City to stay atop the Big 8

Big bats blast Panthers
By: Matt Folsom Placer Herald Correspondent
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Few rivalries in community college softball – perhaps in all community college athletics – can match the intensity, competitiveness and pure entertainment of Sierra College versus Sacramento City College. Last week’s game at Sac City was no exception as the heated rivals battled it out on even terms until Jenna Mae Thorne’s two-run homer in the top of the seventh powered the Wolverines to an important 5-2 win. The victory kept Sierra (28-5 overall, 12-2 Big 8) firmly atop the Big 8 conference standings heading into a doubleheader at Cosumnes River College. The Wolverines have a two-game lead over second place San Joaquin Delta College and a three game lead over Modesto Jr. College with two weeks left in the regular season. The Sac City game was a rare rough outing for Sierra, except for a gritty performance from relief pitcher Katie Bell, some solid defense and a pair of timely home runs. Head Coach Darci Brownell summed it up on the bus ride home. “Even though we had adversity the entire game, we came through,” she said. “We seemed tight, we seemed tense. When we fell behind, we began pressing. But we pulled it out at the end.” Sierra appeared anything but tense in the beginning as outfielder Leesha Shoemaker lined the game’s first pitch to left center for a single. Shoemaker advanced to second on Thorne’s perfect sacrifice bunt and then scored when Sac City shortstop Molly Ryan mishandled DP Ashley Osier’s hard-hit grounder. Ryan gloved Michelle Fogal’s screaming line drive to end the Wolverine threat, but Sierra looked poised for a big game from its offense. Ryan’s two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, her eighth this season, took the wind out of Sierra’s sails and appeared to shake Wolverine starter Emily Snow. Snow struck out Mary Silva and Ranell Lopez to end the first, but the freshman, who has been exceptional in the circle the last three weeks, wouldn’t last another inning. Snow was chased in the bottom of the second after she walked Melissa Spanton and plunked Dominique Strayhorn. Reliever Bell didn’t start any better as she walked Michaela Cuellar to load the bases with one out. Panther leadoff batter Cassie Towne then hit a sharp grounder to Kacy Romero who forced out Spanton at the plate for out number two. Bell easily handled Daisy Ledesma’s grounder back to the circle to get Sierra out of what could have been a huge inning for Sacramento City (10-19-1, 5-10). The Panthers would get two runners on in every inning but the sixth, but were unable to push anything across thanks to inning-ending fly-outs to Romero in the third, left fielder Jessica Snow – who made a spectacular running catch – in the fourth, and a Bell strikeout of a looking Spanton in the fifth. Sierra tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth after loading the bases on back-to-back singles off Panther pitcher Shasta Hill by Shoemaker and Thorne and a walk to Annette Merjano. Shoemaker came home on Sac City catcher Mary Silva’s passed ball, but the Wolverines would get nothing more as Hill fanned Osier to end the inning. Both teams had three-and-out sixth innings to set the stage for the big-bat theatrics from the Wolverines in the final frame. Romero singled to open the seventh and moved to second on Jessica Snow’s sacrifice bunt. After Shoemaker flied out to center, Thorne clubbed a 1-1 pitch high over the center field fence for what proved to be the game-winning runs. While Thorne leads the team with a .477 conference batting average, she has just missed a half dozen homers and her first dinger of the year brought the Sierra bench roaring to its feet. Sierra wasn’t done in the seventh as Merjano blasted her 13th round-tripper of the season – the Wolverines’ state-leading 58th – and Osier ripped a double to left that was so hard Panthers were diving out of the way. Hill K’d Fogal to end the inning and send Sac City to their final at-bats. The bottom of the seventh opened with Towne grounding out to Taylor McGregor at short, but after Ledesma reached on a McGregor error followed by a Ryan single, the Panthers were in business and looking for a game-ending rally. Fogal ended that notion with a stellar defensive play that saw her fielding Silva’s sharp grounder, forcing Ledesma at third and throwing out Silva at first for the double play. Bell picked up the win in the circle to move to 9-2. Hill dropped to 6-10 with the loss. Shoemaker continued her hot April by going three for four, while Thorne was three for three with two RBI. Ryan’s three for four, two RBI outing paced the Panthers. Brownell, who said her squad had a lot of work to do to get ready for this weekend’s games at CRC, heaped praise on her pitching and batting stars. “Katie Bell was our key to victory today,” Brownell said. “Our offense came from Leesha and Jenna and Jenna came through at just the right time.” INFO BOX 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E Sierra College 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 5 8 1 Sacramento City College 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 7 1 WP: Bell (9-2) LP: Hill (6-10) Big 8 standings (through April 11) Team Big 8 Pct Overall Pct Sierra 12-2 .857 28-5 .848 San Joaquin Delta 10-2 .833 25-6 .806 Modesto 9-3 .750 18-13 .581 Santa Rosa 6-6 .500 18-12 .600 American River 7-7 .500 17-14 .548 Sacramento City 5-10 .333 10-19 .350 Diablo Valley 2-11 .154 9-22 .290 Cosumnes River 2-12 .143 5-25 .167