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Pitman softball chasing Merced
Pride beat Bulldogs, enter final round of CCC in second place
softball pic1
Pitman's Spencer Bronken attempts to tag out Turlock junior Hannah Relaford during the fifth inning of Friday's CCC showdown. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

With only five games left in the Central California Conference season, Pitman High softball is on a mission to dethrone two-time defending CCC champs Merced High. The Pride continued their hunt for the Bears' first place position on Friday with a 10-1 home win against rival Turlock High, extending their league record to 9-6 and closing Merced's lead by only two games.

“We're feeling good. The bats are coming alive, and that's what you've got to do when you have strong pitching. You need to support it with strong hitting and we've been doing that for the last couple of weeks,” Pitman head coach Joe Lewis said.

Friday's victory was rooted in solid pitching from senior ace Lexi Mettler and a fourth-inning scoring spree that saw the Lady Pride record seven runs. As for the Bulldogs, their effort was mired by a slew of errors, four of which led to runs. Still, Turlock was able to avoid a loss via 10-run rule with strong defensive play and the pitching of Mariah Gonzalez. Trailing by nine by the end of the fifth inning, Turlock allowed no more runs and pushed the game all the way to the seventh inning.

“We didn't want o get 10-run ruled to be honest with you,” Turlock head coach Jill Odgen said. “We had a bit of a different defense today, but that is not an excuse. We just missed some plays and they were aggressive on their base running and scored their runs.”

Mettler also showcased her game from the plate on Friday with 3RBIs, the first of which came in the bottom of the third inning on a single that crossed Star Russo — who stepped across home plate after beating a rundown between second and third base with the help of a couple Bulldog errors. Pitman rounded out the third inning with a RBI single from Nicole Bailey to make it 2-0.

“She's always been one of our top hitters. She's led the team since freshman year, every year, hitting wise,” Lewis said. “And pitching, she's been on top of it this year. She's leading the league in strike outs and she's on the mound every game. She's doing great.”

Cady Riley continued the Pride's scoring trend in the bottom of the fourth inning with a RBI single, which was followed by Mettler who scored her final two RBIs of the day with a line-drive single into center field. Bailey put two more runs in the Pride's column with a 2RBI double and Spencer Broken followed with a RBI single to complete the seven-run inning.

“It's tough when you play the in-town rival. You never know what you're going to get on either side,” Lewis said. “The game's are usually tight. We were able to break it open in that one inning, and I was just happy because at one point we had six hits with two outs. That's huge, you've got to be able to hit with two outs and score runs.”

Turlock finally got onto the scoreboard with a RBI single from Gonzalez that crossed Madison Mayol, a hit that broke what was up until that point a no-hitter by Mettler.

Pitman's final two runs came in the bottom of the fifth inning and were both scored off Turlock errors with Holland Henson crossing the plate thanks to errors from the catcher and first baseman and Morgan Aguniga crossing with the help of an error from the shortstop.

The loss marks the fourth straight in the CCC for the Bulldogs who are currently sitting in the fourth place position behind Merced, Pitman and Atwater. The Bulldogs' next game will be held at Buhach Colony High on Wednesday.

“Our girls played like a team when they beat Merced, and when they win everybody participates and it's a team effort,” Odgen said. “Our girls know what they are capable of. If  you can beat Merced, you can beat anybody in this league. We have the tools (we) just need to put it all together and play as a team.”

The Pride will hit the field next at home against Golden Valley High on Wednesday. To complete their mission and claim the CCC title, Pitman will need Merced to lose two of its final five games, including  its matchup with the Pride on April 24.

“We have to win out,” Lewis said.