High School Sports

Atwater-BC softball: This game is big

ATWATER — Ask Bobby Dallas about any one of his upcoming opponents and the answer is always the same.No matter the team.

Or the circumstance.

“It’s like I’ve been saying all season, they’re all big,” the Buhach Colony softball coach said. “Whether it’s Golden Valley, Merced, Los Banos, Pitman or Atwater, the games we play are big.”

This next one just might be the biggest yet for the defending Central California Conference champions.

Buhach Colony welcomes crosstown rival Atwater on Wednesday in a battle of league unbeatens.

First pitch is set for 4 p.m.

Dallas is expecting the entire town of Atwater to show up, and for good reason. Both teams enter the final game of the first round of league play with matching 5-0 marks.

Plus, there’s history.

BC beat Atwater twice last season, including at home on the last day of league to secure the CCC title.

“We can’t wait until the last day of the year to get them,” Atwater skipper Joe Leonardo said. “We need to beat them early, get one-up on them, so that it doesn’t come down to the last game. It’s going to be hard. Buhach is good.”

In typical Dallas fashion, Buhach Colony (13-7) has won with loads of offense.

BC clobbered the ball last week, pounding out 26 runs and 34 hits in wins over Turlock and Golden Valley.

Senior catcher Brittany Jantz went 6 for 7 with five runs, six RBI, two doubles and a home run in the two games.

Not to be outdone, Atwater (12-7-1) has shot up the league standings by winning nine of its last 12 games, including six in a row.

It hasn’t exactly been easy, though. Not since thrashing Turlock 9-0 in its first league game has Atwater won a game by more than two runs.

Daniella Vineyard has been the difference maker. Though she won’t overpower batters, the senior can throw a strike when she needs it.

“She doesn’t walk anybody and she won’t get herself in trouble,” Leonardo said. “And she’s been hitting the corners. She’s been working with a pitching coach, so her controls a lot better.”

An example: Last Thursday’s win at Merced.

Merced had a runner on base every inning against Vineyard, but never got the big hit in a 3-1 loss.

“We’re going to have to do the same thing we’ve been doing: Be patient at the plate and make the right adjustments,” Dallas said.

The stakes are high for both teams, but a loss Wednesday could put BC up against a wall with a tough test looming Thursday.

Los Banos travels to Buhach Colony for a 4 p.m. start on Thursday.

LB is third in the standings at 3-2 — its only losses to the Atwater schools.

“We’ve got a big week ahead of us,” Dallas said. “It’s a good week to be at home. What happens this week will go a long ways. There’s still a lot that can happen, but these outcomes will set the wheels in motion...

“One way or the other.”

Sounds big.

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