PATTERSON -- With traditional power Orestimba High rebuilding, the Sac-Joaquin Section is likely to get a new Division V softball champ this year.
Patterson made a bid to be that team Friday, scoring six runs in the fourth to rout Hilmar 11-2 in a showdown between two of the top three teams in the The Bee's small-school rankings.
Second-ranked Hilmar (11-1, 4-1) scored two runs right away off Mandy Sifuentes, but that was it. Those were the first runs the Tigers had allowed in Western Athletic Conference play.
No. 3 Patterson (8-3, 5-0) retaliated with three in the first and blew it open in the fourth.
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"Patterson has a lot of confidence at the plate, having scored a lot of runs in league," Hilmar coach Paul Willis said. "I kept telling people that Patterson had a good team this year."
The Tigers hit gappers off Alicia Paine, who was bringing the ball across the plate because she wasn't getting strikes when she tried to hit the corners.
"Patterson's likely the best hitting team I've seen," said Willis.
The Tigers had 17 hits, with Sifuentes and Kiana Weinzenheimer each with three. Stephanie Barazza had the big hit in the fourth, a bases-loaded triple.
That potent attack, and Sifuentes' pitching, puts Patterson alongside No. 1 Escalon in the race for the section crown.
Orestimba not only won the last two section titles, it dominated play with a 53-3 record those two years. Its key players, though, graduated last spring.
"If I bet, Escalon is the team to beat," Willis said. "They've got Caitlin Brooks pitching real well, and pitching is the key to softball. That's not to say someone couldn't knock them off."
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.