Merced High School sophomore Liliana Ramirez was trying to battle out of a slump toward the end of the season.
It didn’t look like it Wednesday night.
Ramirez doubled in two runs during a three-run third inning for the Central California Conference All-Stars as they went on to defeat the Western Athletic Conference stars 5-2 in the second year of the Paul Leonardo WAC vs. CCC All-Star Softball Game at Livingston High.
“I’ve been practicing a lot because I’m in a slump right now,” Ramirez said. “I’ve been thinking about my mechanics. I saw the outside pitch and just threw my wrists out there.”
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The win evened the series at 1-1 with the WAC winning 7-6 last year on a walk-off single in the ninth inning by Ceres’ Rayohna Sagapolu.
Sagapolu collected two hits and scored a run Wednesday night, but that accounted for half of the WAC’s hits.
Sagapolu, Ramirez and Turlock’s Shelby Frutoz were picked as the Outstanding Players of the Game and will receive $500 scholarships after they graduate high school.
I’ve been practicing a lot because I’m in a slump right now.
Merced High’s Liliana Ramirez
“It’s all about having fun in this game,” said Sagapolu, who will enter her senior year at Ceres in the fall. “We kind of all know each other from playing against each other. So we have a lot of fun when we get together.”
Frutoz, Atwater’s Megan Escobar and Pitman’s Alanah Laupua limited the WAC to one Sagapolu single through eight innings. The WAC scratched out a run when Pacheco’s Jasmine Yruegas walked in the sixth inning with two outs. Yruegas stole second and scored when the throw passed second and skipped by the center fielder to the fence.
The CCC opened with two runs in the first against Kiara Azevedo of Los Banos. With one out, Atwater’s Brittany Massa and Laupua singled and came around to score on a wild pitch and an error.
“Even though we were switching in and out every inning, I still wanted to win,” Massa said. “When I was in, I was ready to go. I wanted the ball hit to me. This was my last time playing in high school, and I wanted to go out strong.”
Pitman’s Morgan Aguiniga and Turlock’s Jessie Miranda hit back-to-back singles to set the table for Ramirez’s two-run double in the third. Merced’s Ashlynn Chatham reached on an infield single, and Ramirez raced home from third on an errant throw on the play.
Pitman’s Claire Fountain added an RBI single to score Chatham and extend the CCC lead to 5-0.
The CCC totaled nine hits with Buhach Colony’s Selena Sandoval going 2 for 2.
“Tonight was really fun,” Sandoval said. “I had a blast hanging out with all the girls from different teams. It was a chance to bond with players who were your rivals during the season.”
The WAC rallied in the ninth against Golden Valley freshman Marissa Bertuccio. Sagapolu hit a triple to right field and scored on a single by Los Banos’ Savanah Valenzuela to cut the deficit to 5-2. Pacheco’s Samantha Jacquez followed with a double to left to put two runners in scoring position with two outs.
However, Bertuccio got Ceres’ Mackenzie Veuve to fly out to right field to end the threat and the game.
“It’s a lot of fun to be around all these young ladies,” said Atwater coach Robert Santistevan, who coached the CCC with Golden Valley’s Ross Cruickshanks. “We made sure all the girls got to play three or four innings. We hit everybody.
“With these girls, it doesn’t matter who you put in. All 22 of them can make good things happen.”