ATWATER -- It's still early in the season, but the importance of Wednesday's game wasn't lost on Michelle Osborn.
The Buhach Colony coach knows her team is going to have to start knocking off some of the better teams in the Central California Conference to stay in playoff contention.
The Thunder missed another opportunity against Pitman as the Pride's Janessa Guevara shut down the Buhach bats on her way to a 5-1 victory.
"Before the game we talked about how this was a crossroads for us," said Osmer, whose team dropped to 2-3 in the CCC and 6-5 overall. "We really need to start picking it up if we want to make the playoffs.
"It's got to be error free from here on out."
The Thunder defense has been shaky since shortstop Jessica James went down with a broken ankle earlier this month. James' injury has forced Osmer to shuffle her defense around.
Errors played a big part in the loss against Pitman (4-2, 8-6).
The Thunder had just broken open a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning. Mary Castillo had doubled to lead off the frame and Lauren Morris delivered a two-out single to score Castillo.
In the top of the fifth inning the Thunder fell apart.
With two outs and Elizabeth Segars on second base, Buhach pitcher Jordan Reyes appeared to get out of the inning when Alexis Mattler hit a ground ball to shortstop. However, the ball was thrown away and Segars scored to tie the game.
Emily Silva then followed with a fly ball to right that was dropped, allowing the Pride to continue the inning. A walk loaded the bases and Sarah Ward made the Thunder pay with a two-run single to give Pitman a 3-1 lead.
"We can't win without our defense," Osmer said. "Our defense is everything for us right now."
The runs were more than enough for Guevara, who is headed to Sonoma State on a softball scholarship.
Two days after striking out 14 hitters in a 2-1 win over Merced, Guevara fanned 11 batters against and holding Buhach to just three hits.
The Thunder had a tough time not chasing Guevara's riseball with two strikes.
"It comes in looking sweet, but it ends up high," Osmer said. "She has very good control of it. Janessa is the best pitcher in the league."
The Pride were able to tally insurance runs in the sixth and seventh with the help of RBI singles by Skyler Taylor and Guevara.
Ward and Segars led Pitman's nine-hit attack with two hits apiece.
Reyes did her part, keeping the Thunder in the game. The freshman only allowed two earned runs.
Buhach Colony now finds itself looking up in the standings at Merced, Atwater and Pitman. The Bears and Falcons were rained out on Wednesday and will make up their game today at Merced.
With 10 games left, the Thunder have plenty of time to make up ground.
"We'll be okay," Castillo said. "We've got to help on defense, no matter who is pitching. We've got to pick it up.
"We've got to stop making these little errors. We've got to work hard as a team. I think we can do it."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.