High School Sports

BC softball faces big challenge against Merced

A new week, a new challenge. The games aren't getting any easier for the Buhach Colony softball team.

Just a few days after being shutout and shut down at the NorCal Classic, the reigning Central California Conference champs resume league play with another giant.

BC (2-0 CCC, 10-7) looks to snap out of its recent funk today at Merced. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.

In other CCC games, Golden Valley travels to Los Banos (4 p.m.) and Pitman takes on Turlock (4 p.m.).

Merced promises to be Buhach’s toughest conference test to date.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” BC coach Bobby Dallas said. “Every ball game is important in a 12-game schedule. Merced is playing really well right now and truthfully, we’re not.”

Merced(1-0, 11-3-1) has won nine of its last 11 games and opened league with an easy 6-0 win at Pitman on March 19.

Taylor Gross has been the catalyst during Merced’s surge.

The junior ace is 7-2 with an ERA under 1.00. She’s recorded a shutout in four of her last five outings.

Now she’ll try to silence the CCC’s top scoring club.

“I don’t think she’s had a bad game yet,” Merced coach Bart McAfee said. “Hopefully, she doesn’t have it (today). As long as she hits her spots, she’ll do well.”

McAfee’s concerns are with a defense that has committed 10 errors in the last two games — five apiece in wins over Patterson and Calaveras.

“Buhach is a good hitting team. It’s not so much their hitting as it is their speed,” McAfee said. “They put pressure on you.

“It’ll be a challenge for our defense — not Taylor. She won’t have 15 strikeouts. They’re going to put the ball in play. So can we make the plays? I think if we have four or five errors, we’re not going to win the game.”

Both teams wrapped up the non-league portion of their schedules last week at the NorCal Classic in Tracy.

Merced won three of its four games in the Gold bracket.

BC had a rough go of things in the tournament’s Platinum bracket, where it was matched against some of the top teams in the Northern California.

Buhach was outscored 11-3 and lost three of its four games, including a 1-0 nail-biter to East Union and state strikeout queen Erin Arevalo in the opener last Thursday.

“Now we need to get past that and pick ourselves up,” Dallas said. “Merced is playing well. We have our work cut out for us.”

James Burns is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2417 or via e-mail at jburns@mercedsun-star.com.