SOFTBALL: Mustangs upend Lancers 11-2 to advance to semifinals

Gilroy's Stephanie Rodriquez races safely to third and on to

It didn’t take long for the Gilroy High softball team’s bats to
get swinging as the Mustangs plated three runs in the bottom of the
first en route to an 11-2 win over St. Francis in the quarterfinals
of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs Saturday in
A year has already past, but memories linger – especially unfavorable ones.

Two runs in two games equaled Gilroy High softball’s early exit from last season’s playoffs. Heading into this year’s postseason, as has been the scenario many times before, three hurdles clearly lined the Gilroy High softball team’s path to a coveted section title – three victories.

The one way to get across those stepping stones, or at least the first step, is to hit.

The initial stride can sometimes be the hardest – but not this time. The game plan was simple, hit, score and play defense, and the pitching will handle itself.

Obstacle one is out of the way.

“We have a great defense, but our offense has to show up. And, it did,” GHS manager Julie Berggren said.

It didn’t take long for the Mustangs’ bats to get swinging in their playoff opener, plating three first-innings runs en route to an 11-2 win over St. Francis in the quarterfinals of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs Saturday in Salinas.

“This whole week we hammered down and just hit, hit, hit in practice,” said junior Casey Lester, who suited up for her first game after suffering a shoulder injury four weeks ago. “It’s really important for us to give our pitcher support. We really focused on getting runs early in the game.”

A Round 1 bye served the No. 3-seeded Mustangs (24-4) well, and so did 13 hits.

“There’s not a practice that goes by where we don’t hit,” It’s our focus this year,” Berggren said.

Sarah Lorraine Lira looked sharp, going seven strong, striking out four and allowing four hits. Lira induced 15 ground-ball outs, two of which came in the top of the first following a lead off triple by Alyssa Vukcevizh. Lira and the Mustangs stranded the runner on third.

“To shut them down in the top of the first, I think, is what got us going,” Hemeon said. “In our last few league games we had barely been getting runs across so for us to come out and explode like that was great,”

Hemeon, who went 4-for-4 with four RBI, including a two-run triple in the sixth to give the Mustangs their nine-run lead, jump started the bottom of the first with a RBI single. Two more runs via a Lancers’ error pushed Gilroy out to its 3-0 lead. A Lindsay Holt RBI single to center field highlighted a two-run third frame, which moved the Mustangs’ lead to 5-0.

Gilroy tacked on three more tallies in the fourth on a Melanie Morelos RBI base knock and a Lira two-run inside-the-park home run.

Lester’s fielder’s choice ground out chasing in Celeste Mendoza increased the cushion to 9-0. The No. 13 Lancers broke through with a pair of runs in the top of the six to make it 9-2 before Hemeon’s triple in the bottom half.

“As long as we keep hitting, our defense is good,” Hemeon said.

The Mustangs will face Leland in the semifinals on Tuesday at PAL Stadium in San Jose. Game time is slated for 4:30 p.m.

“They have the confidence and they definitely believe in themselves,” Berggren said. “I don’t think it’s a cocky arrogance, I just believe it’s, ‘we’ve been here, we know how much it hurts to lose, and we won’t let that happen again.”

The Mustangs defeated the Chargers 1-0 last season’s quarterfinals. No. 7 Leland topped second-seeded Homestead 9-5 on Saturday to advance to the semifinals.

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