CHOWCHILLA -- When Ashley Gaither unloaded on the very first pitch, no one on the Chowchilla bench nor in the crowd could have imagined it might be the only fireworks of the game.
Gaither laced a ball into the right-center gap and then streaked around the bases in a flash.
She never slowed.
A relay throw got away and Gaither turned a stand-up triple into the game's first run.
"I thought it was a good sign," Gaither said. "I never hit the ball past third base, so I figured we were all going to hit."
It never happened.
Corcoran starter Norma Alverez's combination of slow and really slow stuff left Chowchilla permanently out on its front foot.
Fortunately, it didn't matter.
Stephanie Perrini answered Alvarez with a four-hit shutout and Chowchilla snatched a 2-0 victory over Corcoran on Friday, thus advancing to the semifinals of the CIF Central Section playoffs.
No. 3 Chowchilla (17-12) will face the winner of No. 2 Kingsburg and No. 7 Woodlake on Wednesday.
"It was a lack of patience and just our inability to hit a slow ball," Chowchilla coach Fred Gaumnitz said. "Sometimes you just have to survive in the playoffs.
"And that's what we did."
Not that the game was ever in much doubt.
Corcoran's offense never threatened to break out. At least, not without Chowchilla's help.
Four errors and a handful of other mental miscues forced Perrini to dance her way out of a couple jams.
Each time the sophomore was up to the task, finishing with four strikeouts.
"I just tried to not get frustrated with anyone," Perrini said. "By the fourth inning, I was starting to feel the heat.
"It was very important for me to finish the game."
Perrini's only other run support came in the fifth, as Chowchilla used a pair of errors and a fielder's choice to load the bases with no outs.
The opportunity almost went completely for naught with consecutive force outs at the plate -- on a swinging bunt and a failed squeeze play.
Brittany Hubbard bailed her teammates out with a run-scoring single, but that was the end of the offense.
Chowchilla wasted six hits and only once had more than one in an inning.
"We've just never faced anyone like (Alverez)," Gaither explained. "We face 55 or 60 miles per hour in the cage everyday.
"This wasn't even close."
Fortunately for Chowchilla, the game wasn't really close, either.
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central Section Division IV Playoffs
CORCORAN 000 000 0 -- 0 5 4
CHOWCHILLA 100 010 x -- 2 6 4
Norma Alvarez and Raquel Gomez. Stephanie Perrini and Shelby Hubbard. WP -- Perrini. LP -- Alvarez.
CORCORAN -- Raquel Gomez 2-3, Demi Walker 3B.
CHOWCHILLA -- Ashley Gaither 3B (R).
Records: Corcoran 13-12; Chowchilla 17-12.