Los Banos and Pacheco’s softball teams are on an upswing heading into the NorCal Classic Thursday and today in Tracy, with Pacheco’s 11-0 shutout of Livingston and Los Banos’ 3-2 victory over Central Catholic on April 17.
Los Banos’ victory took nine innings to complete after the Tigers mounted an early 2-0 lead and Central Catholic chipped away to tie it. A Kylee Cardoza sacrifice fly scored runner Kalea Gabriel in the bottom of the ninth.
“You hate to say must-win, but those two games were must-win for us last week, and our girls responded very well,” Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso said. “That win was huge for us. We’re 6-3 in league, and we have three more games left. I told our girls, if we win two of our next three, we’re in second place by ourselves. If we don’t, who knows what happens.”
The Tigers have had to play seeding games prior to the playoffs the last two years after finishing tied with Ceres last year and Central Catholic the year before.
Things went easier for Pacheco in an 11-0 victory over Livingston, with pitcher Gia Rodoni throwing her third one-hitter since she became eligible four games ago. But the offense responded in this game for Pacheco’s highest run total since playing Livingston in the first half of league play, an 11-10 Pacheco victory.
“We definitely broke out of an offensive slump we might have been in. It was a good team to face when we need to find a way to score runs,” Pacheco coach Charlie Pikas said. “That’s the thing we’ve been showing is other than the Ceres game, we’re getting better offensively, and I hope that was a step in the right direction.”
Rodoni went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs; Yessenia and Yadira Castillo each hit a double (Yadira Castillo added three RBIs); Jazzy Yuregas scored twice; and Kayla Valdez knocked two in as the Panthers scored nine of those runs in the second inning. The win left Pacheco at 4-5 in the WAC, with three other teams either 5-4 or 4-5, and all fighting for the third playoff spot behind second-place Los Banos (6-3).
Both teams will get a bit of a break this week with the NorCal Classic, hosted by Tracy High School but organized by Pikas and Tracy High coach Greg Smith.
“We know the task at hand. We have to go 3-0 in league, so this is a little bit of a mental break,” Pikas said. “We get some game experience without it being must-win. We’ll try some things out.”
The Classic features 49 varsity teams in four brackets, and a junior-varsity division as well, bringing the total to about 70 teams. With a few teams having dropped out at the last minute, Pikas volunteered the Panthers to fill some of those games, so they will not advance in the Diamond bracket.
“We’re not going to play for the championship, it’s just game experience. It’s one of the things that being the tournament host, we’ll take the brunt of some things,” Pikas said. “On the other side, it’ll be nice because we’ve seen what it takes to get to the section final, and you have to play three days in a row. We have to first of all make the playoffs, but if we do that, it will show us what it takes.”
Caropreso is also relishing the chance to play non-league games.
“That’s why we’re play these four games this weekend,” he said. “It’s not a matter of winning games – you love to win games, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a great opportunity to get some girls some at-bats, and put them in some spots where you can see what they can do.”