In order for the Tracy High softball team to keep advancing in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs the Bulldogs needed to start pounding out some big hits.
That’s what they did on Thursday in two games at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton in the double-elimination bracket of the SJS Division 1 tournament. First Tracy defeated Folsom High 5-2, and then came back and hammered Elk Grove High for an 11-2 win.
Tracy knocked both teams out of the elimination portion of the bracket, and now advances to a rematch with the Whitney Wildcats (25-5, 13-2 Sierra Foothill League) in Friday’s championship. Because Whitney defeated Tracy on Tuesday the Bulldogs will have to beat the Wildcats twice in order to claim the section title, with the first game scheduled for 5 p.m.
Tracy 11, Elk Grove 2
Tracy junior Giavana Alegre was ready to break out of a batting slump in the Bulldogs’ second game on Thursday. Prior to Tracy’s game against Elk Grove (21-9, 9-3 Delta League) the last time she got a base hit was three weeks ago, on May 3 against Lodi in the final game of Tri-City Athletic League play.
Tracy was already ahead 6-2 when Alegre opened the fifth inning with a solo home run over the left field fence. The next time she came to the plate in the sixth inning the Bulldogs had loaded the bases, and Alegre bashed the ball toward the same spot over the left field fence for a grand slam.
“It was another high inside. That’s my favorite pitch and it felt really good, because I’ve been going through a slump and it really boosted my confidence,” Alegre said. She hopes that it also affirms the confidence level for her team as they get ready to face Whitney again on Friday.
“I feel like we’ve got our spirits back up. We’re all cheering together and cheering each other on and we came together as a team. I’m hoping our energy will stay up, that our energy from this game will lead into tomorrow and we can get that win.”
Tracy coach Paulette Keeney said she’s known all along that the Bulldogs were capable of hitting the ball like that.
“I’ve just been waiting for this, and it’s exciting to see everybody come through. It’s so nice,” she said. “All of this time I knew Gia, I knew what kind of hitter she was, because in practice she hits them over constantly. It was just a matter of time before she was going to start doing that. We all knew it. She hits the ball so hard, and her swings are amazing. They were line drives. They weren’t just barely making it over.”
The Bulldogs were getting effective hits right from the start of the game. They collected five hits for four runs in the first inning, with senior Marti Rhinehart, going 3-for-4 for the game, and senior Karina Faasisila, going 3-for-5, each hitting two-RBI singles.
Tracy scored two more in the third when Rhinehart reached on an error and eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk, and sophomore Aaliyah Jenkins, also 3-for-4 in the game, hit an RBI single to left field.
Elk Grove got only four hits off of Tracy pitcher Faasisila, who allowed no earned runs and struck out seven batters. Elk Grove’s hits included a double to lead off the bottom of the third inning. That runner scored on a two-out, bases-loaded infield error, and another scored on a bases-loaded walk.
Alegre’s home runs in the fifth and sixth innings made it an 11-2 game. Senior Isabel Cargill also had two hits, and sophomore Kaela Jones had a hit as well.
Jones pitched one inning of relief, getting all three batters out, including one strikeout, in the seventh inning.
Tracy 5, Folsom 2
The Folsom High team (17-8, 9-6 Sierra Foothill League) opened strong, with their leadoff batter hitting a single and sophomore Shelby Pfeiler hitting a two-run homer over the right field fence in the first inning.
After that Tracy senior pitcher Karina Faasisila held the Folsom batters hitless through the sixth inning and she struck out seven batters.
“Once they got that hit we didn’t want to let it affect us. We knew we could hit. We worked on it yesterday in practice,” Faasisila said, adding that she became more confident in her pitching as the game progressed. “I trusted my defense to make good plays and good catches, and I trusted my catcher (sophomore Aaliyah Jenkins) on pitch calling.”
Tracy came up with a string of hits in the third inning. Senior Isabel Cargill singled but was out at second as sophomore Kaela Jones reached on a fielder’s choice. Senior Emily Yanke followed with a two-out RBI double, senior Marti Rhinehart hit an RBI single, and junior Bella Pahulu also hit an RBI single.
Tracy scored two more in the fourth after sophomore Aaliyah Jenkins was hit by a pitch, and with two out Cargill homered over the right field fence.
Cargill said that as long as she trusts her abilities the big hits will come.
“Going in I keep things simple. I have played softball my whole life. I know how to hit so I just go up there and think, see ball, hit ball,” she said.
Cargill went 3-for-4, also hitting a double, and Yanke and Pahulu had two hits each, and Faasisila also had a hit.
Folsom got one more hit off of Faasisila in the seventh, but that runner was forced out at second as shortstop Yanke made the unassisted play on a grounder.