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Merced College baseball gives softball team a big boost

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG
Merced College's (23) Nicole Blades slides safley to third on a hit by (28) Beth Flowers (not pictured) in the bottom of the fourth inning in a game against Porterville, 

Thursday, April 16, 2009 afternoon, at Merced College softball field.
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG Merced College's (23) Nicole Blades slides safley to third on a hit by (28) Beth Flowers (not pictured) in the bottom of the fourth inning in a game against Porterville, Thursday, April 16, 2009 afternoon, at Merced College softball field. Merced Sun-Star

After a listless performance in the opening game of Thursday's doubleheader with Porterville, the Merced College softball team's season was pushed to the brink.

Despite needing a win in the nightcap to give themselves a chance of a playoff birth, the She-Devils still couldn't muster any energy.

The MC baseball team took care of that.

In good spirits after rising to No. 2 in the NorCal rankings, Chris Pedretti's squad started to filter in around the third inning as their practice finished up.

Their spirit was just what the She-Devils needed.

Invigorated by the boisterous crowd, MC hit through the order in the fourth inning, scoring six and cruising to a 7-1 victory over Porterville (10-8 Central Valley Conference, 19-19).

The victory gave the She-Devils third place in the CVC and helped solidify a compelling argument for a playoff birth.

The top two teams in Northern California's six conferences automatically are in, leaving four at-large births to fill out the 16-team field.

Two of the births will be going to the third and fourth-place finishers in the Big 8 conference -- both of which will have over 30 wins on the season.

That leaves the She-Devils (12-6, 23-16) fighting for one of two spots.

"I think a sweep would have sealed it for us," MC coach Suzanne Burrola said. "By splitting we've left things up to chance.

"I was pleased that we at least fought back in the second game and gave ourselves that chance."

The fourth inning turned the tide.

Down 1-0, Nicole Blades, Sarah Leonardo and Beth Flowers all had tremendous at-bats, fighting off tough pitches before loading the bases with a pair of walks and a single.

For the first time all day, MC cashed in on its opportunity.

Megan Besecker drove in a run with a fielder's choice and Kayla Ryan put MC up for good with an RBI ground out.

Tina Enos doubled in a run and Lindsey Oexle broke the game open with a two-run triple.

Oexle made the lead stand, allowing just one run on five hits.

"The baseball team was huge for us," Oexle said. "We were playing better, but couldn't get it going.

"They're energy sparked the rally."

MC will try to pad its playoff resume, closing the season with a doubleheader at home against Butte next Tuesday.

The She-Devils have more victories (23) than the rest of the teams vying for the final two playoffs spots, but records are only part of the equation.

"I think the Siskiyous is going to be huge for us, but we'll have to see," Burrola said. "These girls have worked hard and a playoff spot would be a nice reward."

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