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TC softball shut out in playoff opener
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LODI — Just as the lights came on over the north diamond field at the Lodi Softball Complex, the sun began to set on the Turlock Christian High softball team’s season.

The Eagles were shut down by the Capital Christian Cougars of Sacramento 9-0 in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI tournament on Thursday night.

The three-time defending Golden Empire League champion Cougars wasted no time in pouncing on the Eagles. Capital Christian’s first two hitters in the bottom of the first inning reached base on throwing errors by the Eagle’s defense.

The Cougars capitalized on the mistakes by bringing in five runners home. The Cougars batted around their lineup and, as a team, were a home run shy of hitting for the cycle in the inning.

“We had some mental errors that cost us from the very first play,” said Eagles shortstop Candice Balswick. “We tried our best and it was fun and that’s all we can ask for.”

The five runs that came across for the Cougars in the first seemed to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

“That first inning dictated the whole game,” said Turlock Christian coach Randy Hopkins. “We kind of threw the ball around, which is not typical of us at all.”

Capital Christian, led by sophomore pitcher Shelby Gill (seven innings, three hits allowed and 14 strikeouts), tacked on three additional runs in the fifth inning and one more in the sixth to finalize the score at 9-0.

Hopkins and the Eagles finished with an 11-8 overall record (their highest win total in a season since winning 12 in 2005) and their first postseason appearance since the inception of D-VI competition in 2007.

“Overall, we’re happy about coming back and saving this season and claiming the second spot (in the Southern League standings) to make it here,” added Hopkins.

At the beginning of May, Turlock Christian was just 5-6 in Southern League action before it turned its season around with a four-game winning streak, wrapping up the regular season and securing a playoff berth.

Balswick, playing in her final game as the lone senior for Turlock Christian, called this season a “blessing” for being able to play beyond the regular season, even if it was for only one game.

Although Balswick won’t be around next year, Hopkins remains optimistic about the future in retaining much of the same roster going into 2011.

“That’s going to be a big void in our lineup,” said Hopkins of Balswick. “She’s a great shortstop who can cover a lot of ground out there so it will be hard filling that spot. But I think we’re going to have another great year next year and get right back here.”