The Los Banos softball team’s offense was such a constant this season it was easy to take for granted.
Comprised of a veteran lineup with no obvious holes, the Tigers hit .362 while scoring 220 runs, good for more than eight per game. But good pitching is supposed to trump good hitting in the playoffs, and unfortunately for Los Banos, the old adage held true Friday evening at Arnaiz Softball Complex.
Bear River’s Nerissa Eason showed why she is Oregon State bound, stymieing the Tigers like few others have. She scattered four hits and shut out Los Banos for just the second time this season as the Bruins eliminated the Tigers from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs with a 3-0 victory.
It was an unsatisfactory finish to a tremendous season that saw Los Banos go 22-5 and win a first-round playoff game.
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“We had our chances. We just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it,” said Dustin Caropreso, who announced after the game it would be his last as the Los Banos softball coach. “We shut them down after a bad first inning and found ways to get the people on base. We just couldn’t get them in.
“A lot of credit has to go to (Eason). She’s going to Oregon State for a reason. She got strikeouts when she needed them, and she got in on our hands when she needed to.”
Just like in Thursday’s 10-5 loss to Casa Roble-Orangevale, a bad first inning had Los Banos playing catchup the entire game.
Kiara Azevedo got the nod for the Tigers in the circle and needed a little time to settle in as Bear River (27-3) opened with three straight hits. Eason helped her cause with a two-run single. Kailynne VanWinkle added an RBI single and Los Banos quickly faced a 3-0 hole.
Azevedo made sure the lead didn’t grow, surrendering no walks and yielding just three hits the rest of the way.
The sophomore received defensive support as well. Haley Quintana turned a heads-up double play when a runner rounded second a little too hard on a sacrifice bunt in the second. Mel Silva topped that web gem in the third when she gunned down Mallory Borrego at the plate on a single to center field.
“We tried to get the momentum going wherever we could,” Silva said. “We made some good defensive plays and hoped they would help get the offense going.
“We haven’t seen a pitcher like that in a while, and we struggled a little bit. We never gave up, though. We did a good job keeping everything positive and never believed we couldn’t win the game.”
The Tigers’ best chance to score came in the fourth inning when Ali Waltman drew a leadoff walk and Azevedo reached on an error. They advanced on a double steal, putting runners on second and third with one down.
Eason answered with a strikeout and got Emily LoneTree to hit a comebacker.
Waltman and Azevedo got things going again in the sixth with a walk and single, but a line-drive double play ended the final threat.
“It’s tough to have a great season end like that,” Caropreso said. “We put ourselves in this spot by not taking care of our opportunities (Thursday).
“This is the best group I’ve had in my five years, so it was nice to see them get a playoff win. Still, we had hopes of doing a little more.”