LOS BANOS — After this season's first two meetings between Los Banos and Ceres softball were decided by one run each, it would be safe to assume the third, a seeding game prior to the playoffs, would be equally close.
But Ceres broke the mold with Wednesday's 10-3 victory in Los Banos, securing the Western Athletic Conference's second seed for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
"That's actually the third time we've seen Taylor (Harris, Los Banos pitcher) this year, so we kind of had a game plan going into it to try to get the bat on the ball," Ceres coach Donnie Donaldson said.
"She's got a decent riseball and she's kept it away from us two games in a row, so we kind of had a little practice with it."
The game was scheduled after Los Banos and Ceres each finished 8-4 in the WAC, with LB winning the first game 2-1 and Ceres winning the return trip 5-4. LB won the coin toss and chose to host, but Ceres batted last. With the loss, Los Banos will host an outbracket game Monday, while Ceres will travel to SVC champion Union Mine on May 15.
Los Banos took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Angela Rodriguez reached on an error, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on two consecutive passed balls.
Ceres rebounded with back-to-back home runs by MacKenzie Vueve and Mahlena O'Neal.
The Tigers tied the game in the second, but Ceres added three in the fifth after a leadoff Nicole Bates triple and a two-run Kaytlin Donaldson single, then another four in the sixth centered around a two-run Vueve double.
"When you lose your last three out of four, the confidence is down," Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso said. "You can see it when we're out there. The morale is down. But the greatest thing about it is we still get to play. Our season's not over with."
Merced 2, Golden Valley 1
Matt Smith scattered eight hits over seven complete innings and Merced rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning to finish the season with a road win over Golden Valley.
It was a tough result for Cougars starting pitcher Jerrod Hamblin, who limited the Bears to five hits while striking out eight in seven innings of work.
Ridge Bertuccio had two hits and doubled in a run for GV. Jeremy Mendoza had a pair of hits for Merced.
Chowchilla 4, Yosemite 2 (13)
OAKHURST Frankie Schwartz hit a two-run single in the top of the 13th inning to lift the Redskins (14-10, 7-7 North Sequoia League) to a thrilling win.
Le Grand loses coin toss
The Le Grand softball team will enter the playoffs as the Southern League No. 2 seed after losing a coin toss on Wednesday evening with Waterford. The two teams tied for the SL championship.
"We've gone in as the two, three and one seed before and done well," Bulldogs coach Gia Pridell said. "We just have to play."