The Whitney Wildcats of Rocklin seized the early momentum to take a 7-1 win over Tracy in the first game of double-elimination play in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 softball championship tournament on Tuesday.

The game had been postponed twice because of rain-soaked fields at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton, and when they finally did play on Tuesday the Wildcats came in with timely hits and aggressive base running.

“They played defense and we didn’t,” Tracy coach Paulette Keeney said. “We had some errors early on that broke our momentum and we just couldn’t recover. We’ll need to learn how to overcome errors when they happen and just move on.”

Whitney (24-5, 13-2 Sierra Foothill League) scored in the first inning after the leadoff batter walked and then advanced on an infield error. The error was compounded by a moment of hesitation and indecision by the Tracy defense, allowing Whitney’s lead runner to sprint around the bases before the Bulldogs could make the play.

The Wildcats scored another in the third inning on two hits and two walks. Tracy senior pitcher Karina Faasisila got out of the inning with just one run scored and the bases loaded after she fielded a bunt and got the ball to sophomore catcher Aliyah Jenkins at the plate to get the lead runner out and then struck out the next batter.

Tracy (22-8, 14-1 Tri-City Athletic League) totaled seven hits for the day, but the Bulldogs’ only run came in the top of the fourth after junior Bella Pahulu walked and advanced to third on Jenkins’ single to right field. Senior Kaelani Ratliff drove in Pahulu with another single to right field.

“I feel like we were talking a lot in our dugout and staying up as much as we could, but we all need to get that confidence so we can come together and hit,” Ratliff said.

The Wildcats went through their batting order for a four-run fourth inning, including three hits, two walks and a runner who reached on an error, and they scored one more run on three hits in the fifth inning.

Faasisila allowed seven runs, four of them earned, on nine hits over seven innings, and she struck out eight batters.

Tracy’s base runners got as far as third base a couple more times, including Pahulu’s triple down the right field line in the sixth inning, but Tracy didn’t get any more hits with runners in scoring position.

Ratliff had two of Tracy’s seven base hits. Senior Isabel Cargill, sophomore Kaela Jones and senior Marti Rhinehart also had base hits.

Tracy, the defending SJS Division 1 champion, now has to win four games in a row on Thursday and Friday to reclaim the title.

“My outlook for Thursday is to just stay confident in my hitting and see how it goes from there,” Ratliff said.

Keeney added that as long as they can get timely hits, the Bulldogs can make a comeback.

“We’re still alive and I think we’re going to be just fine. We’re going to come back strong,” she said.

All four of the top teams in the SJS Division 1 double-elimination bracket will play again on Thursday, and by the end of the day two teams will be eliminated and two teams will advance to Friday’s championship game. Whitney plays Elk Grove, which beat Folsom 6-4 on Tuesday, and Tracy plays Folsom. Both games are at 5 p.m. at the Arnaiz Softball Complex.

The winner of the Tracy vs. Folsom game will play again at 7:15 p.m. Thursday against the loser of the Whitney vs. Elk Grove game, and the winner of that game will advance to Friday’s championship game at 5 p.m. If Whitney or Elk Grove can remain undefeated through Friday’s 5 p.m. game, they will claim the SJS Division 1 title. If Tracy makes Friday’s championships, the Bulldogs will have to win twice Friday to win the division title.

Contact Sports Editor Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

Sports editor at the Tracy Press

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