Pitman High’s softball team locked up the Central California Athletic League’s third and final playoff spot on Thursday with an 11-8 victory over archrival Turlock — on the Bulldogs field and on Senior Day, no less.
There existed a scenario where the race could’ve extended into next week, but that would’ve required fourth-place Modesto beating undefeated Enochs. That not only was unlikely to happen, it didn’t happen.
The Eagles, walloped the Panthers 13-2 Thursday, and with that result in the books when Pitman and Turlock finally got under way after a 30-minute rain delay, the Pride knew what they had to do.
But it wasn’t easy.
After Pitman took a 1-0 lead in the top of first inning, the Bulldogs countered with two in their half of the frame.
The Pride regained the lead with three runs in the second, but Turlock pushed across two runs in the third to make it a 4-4 game.
Pitman extended the lead to 6-4 in the fourth, and Turlock halved the deficit with a single tally in the fifth.
But the Pride took control with three in the sixth and two more in the seventh, making the Bulldogs’ three-run rally in the bottom of the seven mere window dressing.
“These games are always tight,” said Pitman coach Joe Lewis, whose team will join Enochs and Gregori in representing the CCAL in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. “Whether it’s Senior Day or whether it matters for the playoffs, these games always mean more.”
Both teams made five errors in the contest, which resulted in multiple unearned runs on both sides.
Pitman hurler Gabriella Pacheco scattered 10 hits and even though she didn’t strike out a Turlock batter, she didn’t walk any.
“Gabby pitched a phenomenal game,” said Bulldogs coach Brian Campbell, whose team out-slugged Pitman 12-11 in their first meeting this season. “She did exactly what she needed to do to keep our bigger bats from doing what they did the first game. She hovered around the outside and got our girls kind of reaching, and we were out front of everything. She did exactly what she needed to do.”
Pacheco, a senior, was happy that her career didn’t end without a trip to the playoffs, which will get under way on May 16 (tournament brackets will be announced May 12).
“It definitely was a special day today,” said Pacheco. “I love these girls more than anything, and they would do anything for me. They always have my back on and off the field.
Individually for Pitman (9-11, 6-8 CCAL), junior Rylee Reeves was 3-for-3 with RBIs, while junior Madison Rosebrough was 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Lexi Capote, Addison Mettler and Lacie Nycum had two hits apiece, with seniors Mettler and Nycum scoring three runs each.
For the Bulldogs (4-17-1, 3-9 CCAL), senior Natalie Sahlstrom was 3-for-4 with four runs driven in and three runs scored. Sophomores Karley Wool and Cadence Campbell each collected a pair of hits. Campbell, who took the loss in the circle, scored four times.
“It’s been a while,” said Lewis, whose team hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2016, though they very likely would’ve made it in 2020 or 2021 if not for the pandemic. “It’s exciting.”