The Modesto Metro Conference, long one of the weakest Division 1 softball circuits in the Sac-Joaquin Section, continued to make headway Saturday in its fight for respect.
For the first time in memory, the MMC went 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs as Johansen topped Merced 6-2 and Enochs upset Lodi 1-0.
"We've been saying that the MMC is getting better and now we have proof," Johansen coach Debbie Guenther said. The MMC has failed to get to the semifinals, or have two teams win first-round games, the last five years.
Johansen (24-5) helped overcome that dark past with a number of impressive wins this season and was the No. 3 seed in the 16-team bracket.
The Vikings backed it up by pounding out 13 hits against Merced, with Sadie Coenen going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Sydney Vasquez (3-for-3, two runs) and Chelsea Guenther (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) rounded out the Vikings' potent lineup.
Johansen lost 3-0 to Vacaville in the second round, and will return to the Sacramento Softball Complex Monday to play West of Tracy in an elimination game. Saturday's first-round losers were sent home, while the winners stayed to play in the double-elimination part of the tournament.
The Central California Conference was 0-2 Saturday: Los Banos lost 6-0 to Napa and headed home with Merced.
Johansen was flat against Merced, giving up two first-inning runs due to physical and mental errors. Lizzie Perez dominated the Bears the rest of the way, and got help from her defense the one time that Merced mounted a challenge.
The Bears had runners on first and third when assistant coach Corey Reid called for a pickoff throw from catcher Chelsea Guenther. She whipped a throw to third, where shortstop Theresa Martin blocked the bag while applying the tag, then Martin saw something out of the corner of her eye: The runner on first was off to second, so she threw to Gabby Maurice who completed a rare double play.
"Lizzie was throwing a lot of screws and curves, jamming the hitters right on their hands," Chelsea Guenther said, explaining why the Bears had seven pop-outs. "Where she was placing the ball, they couldn't do anything but pop it straight up."
Freshman right fielder Sydney Vasquez was impressive in her playoff debut, going 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. She made sure there was always someone on base for the top of the order.
"She's a tiny girl, maybe 4-foot-11, but she's no slap hitter. She doubled over the outfielder's head," Debbie Guenther said. "When she gets on base, it creates so many offensive opportunities for us."
It was an emotional roller coaster for Waterford, which rallied to extend its season in the morning and then lost the title game in extra innings. The Wildcats scored twice in the sixth for a 2-1 semifinal win over Lindhurst, and led 1-0 after five innings in the final versus Capital Christian.
Capital tied it in the bottom of the sixth and eventually won 2-1 in the ninth inning.