Softball triple-header brings out families, fans to Rainbow Fields

It's rare when one of Lizzie Perez's parents isn't in the stands, cheering wildly for their freshman daughter and Johansen High's softball team.

But with most of Johansen's games in the afternoon, it's difficult for both her parents to make the same game.

That wasn't a problem Wednesday, however, as the Modesto Metro Conference's six teams had a rare night triple-header at Rainbow Fields.

"Lizzie's parents love to watch her play, so this was a great opportunity for them," said coach Debbie Guenther. "They got a great game, too."

The 14-year-old Perez fired a one-hitter, striking out eight without a walk, to lead the Vikings over Enochs, 10-0.

"Playing in the afternoon, it can be a challenge to get parents out because of work and other issues," Guenther said. "We put this together in hopes it would be easier for parents to come."

All three games began at 6 and attracted a few hundred fans, compared to the typical crowd of a few dozen.

While each game had its hard-core fans, there were packs of softball enthusiasts who roamed between games.

Many of them gathered to watch Johansen and Garcia, who hit the corners and had her pitches moving up and down to confuse Enochs' hitters.

"Lizzie's still growing into her body and is really working on her control, rather than just throwing it hard," Guenther said. "Her pitching coach (Jimmy Dyson) teaches her that mixing it up, keeping hitters off balance, is more effective then just throwing."

The appreciative fans included a half-dozen young girls waiting for pitching and hitting lessons at the adjacent Rainbow Field Academy.

"Our players are role models for the young girls, and it's good to have the chance to watch us," Guenther said. "This is how it starts. The girls see us and I think it excites them, seeing what they might become someday."

Davis coach Tamara Wilkinson is looking for more immediate results, as well. She believes Rainbow Fields could be used as a host site for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs — currently in Sacramento.

"The idea stemmed from a conversation about hosting a southern bracket for the playoffs," said Wilkinson, noting the inequity in forcing Modesto-area schools to travel to Sacramento each year. "Elaine Mead (of Rainbow Fields) proposed we do this once or twice a season."

The concept was approved by the coaches, athletic directors and principals. It will be done again on April 29.

"We thought it was a great idea to allow other fans of fastpitch softball to come out and see a lot of great ball at one time," Wilkinson said.

JOHANSEN 10, ENOCHS 0 — While Perez silenced the Eagles (4-8, 1-5), her teammates pounded out 10 hits in the five-inning game to keep the Vikings (9-3, 4-2) in second place. Carissa Dunn had a pair of RBI doubles, while Jackie Martinez was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

DAVIS 9, BEYER 1 — You can't fault Stephanie Crist for her persistence. The Spartans' (12-2, 6-0) third baseman fouled off eight pitches during a 13-pitch at-bat, then ripped a two-run homer over the center-field fence.

Her blast gave Davis a 4-1 lead in the fourth and Desi Maldonado shut out the Patriots (6-6, 3-3) the rest of the way to keep Davis in first place.

"I kept hitting them off the handle, but I made sure to keep my mechanics right," said Crist, who plays travel ball with USA Elite of Tracy. "When I hit it, I drove it back where it came from, right to center field."

Beyer cut its deficit to 2-1 in the top of the fourth after Melaina Saalfeld doubled — the only hit off Maldonado — and scored on a passed ball.

DOWNEY 5, MODESTO 2 — The Knights (5-4, 3-3) strung together six consecutive hits to score four runs in the first, then Rachel Dejong blanked the Panthers (2-9, 1-5) the final six. Modesto jumped ahead 2-0 on consecutive doubles from Liz Pridmore, Samantha Flores and Courtney Wallace. Dejong allowed just one hit the rest of the way.