SOFTBALL: No. 11 Pioneer ousts No. 6 Christopher in first round of CCS playoffs

Christopher's Brittney Souza bats during their first round Central Coast Section Division II playoff game against Pioneer.

The expression on pitcher Aly Olvera’s face said it all. A quick glance back and up at the scoreboard above the center field fence validated the truth that her prep career was nearing the end much sooner than she and the rest of the Christopher High softball team had envisioned when waking up that morning.

“She was trying to pull it together emotionally. I asked her and she wanted to close it out,” first year CHS manager Allison Robinson said, referring to a brief visit with her senior hurler in the top of the seventh inning of Wednesday’s Central Coast Section Division II first round playoff game against Pioneer High. “She wanted to end strong.”

The Mustangs had built a commanding lead after scoring five runs in the frame and still had two runners in scoring position with two outs. True to her form, Olvera went right at the next batter, inducing a fly ball off of the bat of Samantha Blum to spoil her perfect day at the dish.

In the end, though, it was little consolation during an overall frustrating afternoon.

Christopher had its hands full against Pioneer. And as cruel of a fate as it was, nothing swung in the Cougars’ favor as the No. 11 Mustangs (15-12) ousted the No. 6 Cougars, 10-1.

Pioneer plays No. 3 Valley Christian (22-5) in the quarterfinals Saturday.

“No part of our game was crisp today. “It’s kind of a disappointing way to end what I thought was a good season,” Robinson said. “I just don’t think they came out mentally ready to play.”

Making matters worse for the Monterey Bay League co-champions was Pioneer starting pitcher Blum. The senior, who also went 4 for 5, effectively used both sides of the plate and mixed a deceptive fastball with a balance-breaking change-up in holding a Cougars’ offense that averaged five runs per contest to just two hits – both in the third inning.

“We didn’t hit the ball. You have to hit to score. I give credit to (Blum) she definitely commanded her pitches and they are a good team,” Robinson said.

Only three other Cougars reached base.

“When they stepped in the batter’s box, they weren’t looking for their pitch. They were swinging at balls out of the zone,” Robinson said.

Four errors on defense and nine strikeouts on offense summed up the difficult day on the diamond. The Mustangs didn’t let the Cougars off the hook, capitalizing on the extra chances  and littered the field with 15 hits.

Two errors, a walk and RBI singles by Alex Luna and Blum catapulted the Mustangs to a 3-0 advantage in the top of the third. The Cougars answered back in their half of the frame, using a Kristen Dennis RBI-double, which plated Olvera (single), to pull within two runs.

Pioneer pushed across a run in the fifth and sixth before exploding in the five-run seventh. Tatiana Venegas (2), Nicole Read (2)and Luna had the RBIs in the inning.

“I still don’t think we ever played our best game of the year,” Robinson said. “Their record isn’t as good as ours, but they play against competition every single game. I think that prepared them a lot better.”

Christopher, which qualified for its second straight postseason in just its second year as a varsity program, finishes the season at 19-8 – a record that includes wins over Monterey, Sobrato, Mountain View and Wilcox. The Cougars, who will most likely play in the ‘A’ Gabilan Division of the newly formed Monterey Bay League next season, will return all but four players next season.

“We did have a good year and it’s something that we can build on,” Robinson said. “It’s a good lesson for the girls who want to get better and win games next year.”

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