Los Banos ace delivers

MERCED — Taylor Mendez hit a two-run double to tie it in the fifth, then Los Banos capitalized on an error in the seventh Tuesday for a 3-2 win over Merced in a Central California Conference opener.

That made a winner out of right-hander Kelsie Monroe, who had nine of her 11 strikeouts in the final five innings.

"I knew I couldn't give up any more runs," said Monroe, who scattered four hits. "For me, it's focusing on my rotation and seeing the pitch before I throw it, and not just throwing it up there."

Monroe was dominant at times, striking out five consecutive batters at one point.

"She's special," LB coach Charlie Pikas said. "She put us on her back that last five innings. When she starts throwing ... like she can, she can be real effective."

Lindsi Cousyns pitched well for Merced (2-8 overall), which scored two runs in the first after loading the bases.

Singles by Kyley Dau and Cousyns started the rally and with two out, Hillarie Elmore was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Miranda Mendoza hit a grounder up the middle that glanced off the glove of Los Banos' Taylor Snowden, allowing pinch-runner Dominique Zuniga and Cousyns come around to score.

Los Banos had a runner on in every inning, and finally broke through in the fifth.

With runners on first and third and two out, Mendez hit one off the center-field fence to score Samantha Fuller and Felicia Remulla to tie it. Mendez was 2-for-3 and was intentionally walked with first base open in the seventh.

"It was good to see her up there with the game on the line," Pikas said. "If Kelsie is a special pitcher, Taylor is a special hitter."

LB's Mayra Espitia doubled to lead off the top of the seventh. One out later, Monroe hit a grounder off the glove of Dau at first base. Dau scrambled for the ball and her throw back to first was high.

As the ball rolled away, Espitia raced around third to score the game-winning run.

"It's the same thing for us," Merced coach Bart McAfee said. "We strike out too much. We have to put the ball in play if we want to win games."