The Golden Valley softball team struggled against Pacheco ace Autumn Randles. After giving up three hits in the first inning, the Panthers right-hander gave up just three hits the rest of the way.
Randles struck out nine and held the Cougars to just two runs.
However, the two runs were enough for Golden Valley ace Marissa Bertuccio. The Cougars star didn’t retire the side in order in any of the seven innings. She had to dig down deep to make the big pitch when she needed it, and gutted her way to a 2-1 win over Pacheco in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs on Monday night at Joe Herb Park.
“It’s nice to know you have someone who is going to keep you in every game no matter what,” said Golden Valley coach Ross Cruickshanks, whose team improved to 21-5.
Bertuccio has worked her way to becoming one of the top pitchers in the Central California Conference. Bertuccio has been in the circle for all 170 innings pitched by the Cougars this year, improving her record to 21-5.
After giving up the one earned run against the Panthers, Bertuccio’s earned run average ballooned up to 0.66. Her 260 strikeouts rank eighth in the state and her five no-hitters this season are the second most in California.
What’s made Bertuccio the dominant pitcher she is?
She believes it’s trust.
She trusts her stuff and she trusts herself to make the pitch when needed. She also trusts her defense to make the plays behind her.
Her trust was definitely tested against eleventh-seeded Pacheco.
The Panthers top hitter Victoria Aguirre burned Bertuccio on an 0-2 pitch that caught too much of the plate in the third inning. Aguirre singled in the tying run to pull Pacheco (16-10-2) even at 1-1.
Aguirre came up in a similar situation in the fifth inning. The tying run was on second base with two outs. This time, Bertuccio struck out Aguirre on a changeup that Bugs Bunny would have been proud of.
“You have to trust your changeup in that spot,” Bertuccio said. “I have a lot of trust in my changeup. Even if the batter got a hit off you last time, you have to trust that you’re going to make the pitch this time. You can’t be afraid to go after them.”
The Cougars jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI single by Vanessa Saltos that scored Bertuccio. The Cougars ace also leads the team with a .462 batting average and 32 runs scored. Saltos’ RBI was her 32nd run batted in this season, which leads the team.
Saltos led off the fourth inning with a triple down the left-field line. She came around to score on an RBI single by freshman Nini Aranda to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
Bertuccio made the lead stand up the rest of the way, giving up six hits and finishing with seven strikeouts.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without her,” Cruickshanks said.
The No. 6 Cougars will advance to the second round on Wednesday against No. 3 Casa Roble (Orangevale), which defeated No. 14 Beyer 10-0 on Monday. The Rams are 22-5 this season.
“I’m happy we just got a win,” Cruickshanks said. “It should do well for their confidence. I didn’t want them to press. All in all, I thought we did a good job. I think it’ll help them relax as we move on.”
Lodi 14, Atwater 4 in Atwater – The Falcons picked the wrong time to not be at their best. Three Atwater players were thrown out at third base in what could only be described as base-running blunders. Four defensive miscues didn’t help as the Flames pulled away late with 11 runs in the sixth and seventh innings combined.
Lodi scored nine runs on seven hits in the seventh inning to put the game away.
Marley Gonzales drove in two runs for Atwater, which finished with a 19-7 record.
Stone Ridge Christian 18, Hughes Academy 0 in Merced – Hannah Nelson threw a one-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts as the Knights opened the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII playoffs with a rout. The game was stopped after five innings because of the mercy rule.
Emma Eastman had three hits and scored four runs for SRC. Eleanor Nelson added two hits and three RBIs and Sydney Shaw drove in four runs.