Injuries dampen Ceres' joy in taking 3rd in NorCal

TRACY -- It's time for Donnie Donaldson to get back to work. After his Ceres High softball team won its first two games in the Gold Bracket of the NorCal Classic, the second-year coach felt all the pieces were in place.

That changed Friday, as he lost three players to injuries -- a pulled groin, a strained bicep and a possible broken finger -- and began moving players around like chess pieces.

"It all changed in 24 hours, but there is no choice but to make the changes best you can," Donaldson said. "In the end, I was happy with the way the girls responded to all of the injuries."

Ceres dropped a one-run game in the morning semifinal, but rebounded to beat Turlock 5-2 in the third-place with seven hits off one of the tourney's top hurlers, Morgan Riddick.

Jamie Beck picked up the pitching win vs. Turlock, backed by a three-run first inning. That could be the first of many more to come, because she is now the Bulldogs' lone pitcher.

No. 1 hurler Kaycee Creek took a pitch off her ring finger while batting in the semifinal. She went in for X-rays, but even if they don't show a break, the injured finger on her pitching hand will sideline Creek for awhile.

"We got back to the Valley Oak League and play Weston Ranch, Oakdale and East Union next week," said Donaldson, whose Bulldogs (9-4) are battling Oakdale and EU for the VOL lead. "The good thing is that we hit the ball around this week. We're getting aggressive."

Ceres got seven hits off Buhach Colony's Alex Molina in the morning's 4-3 loss, quite an improvement from the two hits hit it managed in a season-opening, 1-0 loss to Buhach.

"We faced two very good pitchers and we hit both of them well," said Donaldson, whose club is hitting .298 and averaging a solid four runs per game. "We did a good job of putting hits together this week, and we were hitting throughout the lineup, from top to bottom."

Creek had been Ceres' busiest pitcher, having thrown about 80 percent of the innings. She had a 0.64 ERA and held foes to a .193 batting average, but Beck had even better numbers -- though she had pitched only 13 innings compared to Creek's 55. Beck (3-0) has an 0.54 ERA and is limiting opponents to a .089 batting average.

Central Catholic provided one of the tournament's great comebacks by winning three in a row after losing its opener to Div. I St. Mary's. The Raiders scored three in the first to beat Los Banos 3-1 in the fifth-place game.

Monica Reno and Briana Rios singled to start the first inning. Reno scored on an error and Rios on Jaclyn Zalinski's single, then Kimberly Habeeb's groundout made it 3-0.

Central couldn't score again, but flexed its muscle as Zalinski hit two balls to deep center field for long outs. The Raiders also produced a key defensive play in the fourth.

Los Banos had cut its deficit to 3-1 on Clarisa Hass' single in the second, and threatened to make it closer in the fourth with an inning-opening single. The runner tried to steal second, though, and was gunned down on a precise throw from Zalinski to Allison Lenzora.

Moreno had a four-hitter and didn't allow a runner past first in the final five innings.

Rios pitched the opener, firing a two-hitter with nine strikeouts to beat Chowchilla 2-0.

Lenzora provided the offense in the early game. After No. 9 hitter Josie Flores tripled in the third, Lenzora knocked her in with a double. Lenzora then tripled in the sixth and scored on Reno's single for the 2-0 lead.

Turlock started the tourney with promise, going 2-0 Thursday and beating small-school power Patterson to reach the semifinals. But the Bulldogs ran into a wall against West.

They failed to scored during the first 10 innings of the 11-inning marathon, as West finally broke the 0-0 deadlock on Elida Rubio's two-run homer in the top of the 11th.

Both teams opened the inning with a runner on second -- by virtue of the international tie-breaker. Turlock got its runner in to cut the deficit to 2-1, but that was all it got.

Central California Conference-leading Los Banos, upset by Hughson in the first round, posted an impressive 4-1 win over Modesto Metro Conference contender Enochs. Kelsie Monroe fired a five-hitter with 12 strikeouts, while RBI singles from Michelle Ceja and Taylor Clancy gave Monroe a lead to work with.

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