SOFTBALL: Cougars advance to second round in dramatic fashion

Christopher's Angelica Carrillo makes a thorw to first for the

CHS scores twice in the bottom of the 10th to defeat Pacific
Grove 6-5
Just a sophomore, Kristen Dennis looked more like a proven veteran.

With the tying run 60-feet away, Dennis delivered the game-winning hit with two out in the bottom of the 10th to lift the No. 7-seeded Christopher High softball team past No. 10 Pacific Grove 6-5 in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs Wednesday in Gilroy.

The Cougars’ (17-10-1) first taste of the postseason went 10 tough rounds, and head coach Larry Nabzeska wore every bit of his emotions afterward.

“I’m just wiped out, I really am, I feel like I’ve been through a ringer,” he said.

The first seven innings were just the beginning. And with the score tied 3-3 at the end of regulation the game headed into extra frames, and the excitement built in what turned into a back-and-forth extra session.

Neither team broke through in the eighth and the score remained 3-3.

The international tiebreaker rule – a runner begins the inning on second base – came into effect in the ninth and Pacific Grove capitalized. The Breakers lead off with a base hit that advanced the runner to third. The ensuing batter laid down a squeeze bunt, scoring the go-ahead run from third to put the Breakers up 4-3.

CHS came back using the opposing side’s strategy and, once again, the Cougars put themselves back in the game. Johnna Blank executed a successful squeeze bunt to score the tying run.

“I was wondering if it was ever going to end. We were just jumping up and down in the dugout, holding them from trying to score. It was insane. We all had adrenaline,” Dennis said.

Pacific Grove grabbed the lead in the 10th, leaving the Cougars three outs away from elimination.

But CHS had other ideas.

“That was a tremendous amount of pressure, and I was hoping we would not let them score (in the ninth inning) and we would have a chance to win the game. It didn’t work out. They scored both times and it just put so much pressure on,” Nabzeska said.

That same pressure fueled CHS.

Down 5-4, CHS started the inning with speedster Angelica Carrillo on second base. Kayla Medrano tried to get her teammate over and but got out on bunt attempts. Aly Olvera came up to the plate and belted a double to right center to easily score Carrillo, tying the contest at 5-5 with one out.

Mariza Rodriguez walked to fill first base before Kaslin Ettema’s fielder’s choice to second advanced the runners to second and third with two outs, setting the table for Dennis’ game-winner.

“There wasn’t a bigger hit all day,” Nabzeska said.

It took a complete team effort for the Cougars. Olvera started on the rubber and was a strong resource in the circle throughout the game, striking out eight batters. Olvera said she never lost faith in her teammates the whole day and credited catcher, Mariah Martinez, in the victory.

“These girls, the way they play, they just don’t blow people out. They get behind and then they come back,” Nabzeska said. “So you can never give up on them. You can never quit, never turn around and say ‘well this one’s over,’ because it’s never over until the last out. They proved it again today.”

Pacific Grove scored first in the third inning on two errors by CHS. The Cougars showed their drive, when they responded by putting up two more run that same inning.

The Breakers gained the lead once again the following inning, but the Cougars never lost faith and evened things once again in the sixth.

“We’ve been down before like that and we’ve really come back,” Martinez said. “I just thought we could do it.”

The Cougars will continue their path in playoffs this Saturday at Noon against No. 2-seed Capuchino High School at Hawes Park in Redwood City.

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