Merced bests BC, advances to playoffs

ATWATER — Shay Pacheco and many of her Merced teammates couldn't get their mind off softball as they sat through classes Tuesday.

"We talked about the game against Buhach all day," she said. "We were nervous. We tried to relax. But that's easier said than done."

Now Pacheco can relax.

Merced beat Buhach Colony 7-2 to wrap up the Bears' first playoff berth since 2006.

"We'll play Johansen," said coach Bart McAfee, whose Bears are 9-2 in the CCC and lost 6-2 to Johansen in March,

The Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs start May 22 at the Sacramento Softball Complex.

Merced and BC (7-4 CCC) came into the showdown with a shot at the playoffs.

BC led 1-0 in the first, but it was all Merced after that.

Merced came through with three runs with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Hilliarie Elmore reached on an error and, with two out, Ashley Heath-Smith hit a soft liner over pitcher Alex Molina to put runners on first and third. She stole second, then Serina Castillo's single drove in both runners for a 2-1 lead.Pacheco's run-scoring single capped the three-run rally.

"Those runs were huge," McAfee said. "All we talk about is putting the ball in play and play catch. We did that well."

Merced took advantage of BC mistakes later, too, turning two errors into a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. An error and a Pacheco double put runners on second and third with no outs.

One out later, Yaz Benevidez grounded to first baseman Megan Blaylock. The BC junior fired home to try to get Castillo, but her throw bounced off Castillo and toward the backstop, allowing another run to score as Merced pushed its lead to 5-2.

"It seemed like every inning we were giving them four outs," said BC coach Dan McGhee.

BC threatened in the sixth inning. Flores and Daisy Ledesma opened with back-to-back singles. However, Molina hit into a double play and Ledesma was thrown out trying to steal third to end it.

Merced right-hander Lindsi Cosyns finished with seven strikeouts and gave up just two runs in the win.

Pacheco says the Bears are looking forward to the playoffs. "Considering I've been playing varsity since my freshman year (and) I haven't been before, it feels good," the junior said. "It's nice to be on a winning team."