SOFTBALL: Cougars on brink of postseason berth; face must-win game today

CHS ace Aly Olvera leads the Cougars into a must-win game

It didn’t take manager Larry Nabzeska many words to sum up
It didn’t take manager Larry Nabzeska many words to sum up the situation.

“It’s the biggest game of the year,” the matter-of-fact leader of the Christopher High softball team said.

There actually isn’t any other way to explain what today’s Monterey Bay League tilt against Seaside means to the Cougars and their playoff aspirations.

“We win and it increases our playoff chances tremendously,” Nabzeska continued.

At 13-9-1 overall and

6-3 in league play, the Cougars sit in third place, one game back of the Spartans (7-2 in the MBL) for second, heading into this afternoon’s showdown. The top-two finishers earn Central Coast Section playoff berths out of the MBL.

A win and the window of opportunity for the Cougars to become the first CHS team in school history to reach the postseason opens a bit wider. A loss all but shuts it.

“It doesn’t make any difference what others do. We have to win,” Nabzeska said. “I’m putting it right in front of them. I’m not down playing it, but it’s also not an obstacle.”

Nabzeska isn’t one to make excuses. The reality that the Cougars, who are of course without a senior class, are playing at the varsity level for the first year makes little difference to Nabzeska, and he has consistently throughout the season made sure his players know they have the talent to succeed.

“We talk about being young, that’s not a bad thing, but it’s a state of mind,” he said. “They can’t afford to feel inferior. I want my people to intimidate the other team.”

The Cougars boast the second-best run-producing offense in the MBL behind first-place Monterey (16-4, 9-0), averaging 5.4 runs an outing. Aly Olvera (29), Kayla Medrano (23) and Mariza Rodriguez (22) have all eclipsed the 20-hit plateau this season with two more inching closer to the mark – Kristen Dennis (18) and Mariah Martinez (17).

“It’s going to come down to our hitting,” Nabzeska said. “Lately we have been hitting the ball better, solid contact. If we don’t do it, I’m going to put it on myself.

In the teams’ previous encounter this season, CHS led 2-1 on the road in the bottom of the sixth inning. However, the Spartans rallied for three runs in the inning to steal a 4-2 victory.

If the Cougars prevail, they still must get past Pajaro Valley on Thursday and Watsonville next Tuesday to assure themselves the playoff bid. Both game are on the road.

First thing is first, though.

“They know they can’t afford to make mistakes,” Nabzeska said. “They know Seaside is a tough opponent, but they also know we can beat them.”

Game time is slated for 4 p.m. at Christopher.

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