ATWATER — Kelsie Monroe was at the back of the circle, popping the ball into her mitt and smiling in the sun. Think she was having fun?
The Los Banos ace found her rhythm in the third inning Thursday and there was little that Atwater could do to shake Monroe. Or that grin.
She tied up Denia River. Got Kylie Wescott to flail at a pitch. And retired the side with a trap-door dropball that fooled Amber Gutierrez.
Three batters, three whiffs.
The rest of the day was dominated by Los Banos' power pitching and hitting, as Monroe struck out 11 and Taylor Mendez swatted a rare home run in the Tigers' 6-0 rout.
The win has Los Banos (6-9, 4-0 Central California Conference) surging into the Easter break, after a nonconference schedule that featured three top-50 teams in the country.
Monroe, mixing curves, risers and drops, retired the first 12 batters and didn't allow a runner to reach scoring position until the sixth. Even then, she answered a leadoff single by Wescott with three straight strikeouts, stranding Wescott at third base.
"The one thing we've been working with her is finishing strong. You could see from the third inning she picked it up a little bit," LB coach Charlie Pikas said. "That's going to be her game — going after hitters. In four league games, she's only had one walk. She's been in the zone."
Mendes and Xitlalli Bobadilla, the thunder in the middle of LB's lineup, gave Monroe a cushion to work with.
Mendes snapped an 0-for-7 funk with a solo home run in the third. She hit a low offering from Aliyah Ricks over the fence in left-center field.
It was just the third over-the-fence home run hit at the six-year-old facility, Atwater assistant Joe Leonardo said.
Bobadilla also had two hits, singles up the middle. She had an RBI in the seventh and started a two-run second when she scored on an error.
Los Banos moved up runners in the inning by exploiting Atwater's (2-9, 1-2) physical and mental mistakes.
"This is a young team trying to find themselves," first-year coach Janis Edwards said. "We need make sure we know every situation on every pitch. You have to anticipate every pitch. You have to anticipate every possibility."
The Tigers certainly were prepared. They got six runs on seven hits, chasing Aliyah Ricks from the game in the seventh.
"We figured we'd be OK pitching. We knew we could play a little defense," said Pikas, whose team faces small-school Hughson next Thursday in the prestigious NorCal Classic in Tracy. "So, our focus has been on offense.
"Our girls have been listening and working hard. They're starting to see the rewards. It's nice to see because we're not just relying on one kid right now."