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Crucial error creates must-win showdown

Softball Playoffs
By: Ray Hacke, Journal Sports Writer
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SACRAMENTO —Sometimes, things just don’t go according to plan. A costly error with two runners in scoring position proved to be the difference Monday night as the Del Oro High softball team lost to defending section champion Oak Ridge 2-0 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals at the Sacramento Softball Complex. “It was a close game,” Del Oro pitcher Savannah Pingree said. “It could have gone either way. The first team that makes a mistake, that’s how the game gets determined when two quality teams want the same thing.” The error occurred in the fifth inning. With runners on second and third, Pingree got Oak Ridge senior Melanie Lusi to hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Senior second baseman Kayla Ward fielded the ball cleanly for Del Oro but made a low throw that got past senior first baseman Kelsey Mooney, allowing two runs to score. Until then, the play had gone exactly as Golden Eagles coach John Peck had planned. “ Savannah got the pitch where we wanted her to – low and away,” Peck said. “Their girl hit it on the ground the way we wanted her to. Our second baseman threw too hard to our first baseman, who dropped it. That’s just the way things happen. “It was a routine play that we should have made, and we didn’t. Against a team that good, if you don’t make routine plays, (losing is) what happens.” Oak Ridge ‘s runs were scored by senior catcher Hope Kloczko and junior first baseman Molly Ryan. Del Oro’s error kept a pitchers’ duel between Pingree and Oak Ridge sophomore Kasey Stanchek from turning into a scoreless-inning marathon. “If not for that one blink defensively, we’d probably still be here at 0-0,” Trojans coach Marc Bentovoja said. Stanchek (20-2, 0.47 ERA) pitched a one-hitter for the Trojans, striking out nine batters and walking none. The only hit she allowed was an infield single by Del Oro junior outfielder Annette Merjano. The only other Golden Eagle to reach base against Stanchek was sophomore catcher Aspen Echelmeier, who reached on an error in the top of the fifth. “Kasey’s an incredible luxury to have,” Bentovoja said. “A pitcher of her caliber can hide a lot of holes in our offensive execution and a lot of holes in our defense.” Pingree pitched solidly as well. The junior struck out five batters and allowed five hits. Oak Ridge ( 23-4-1 ) now has a shot at becoming the first school in Sac-Joaquin Section history to win three straight Division II titles. All it has to do is win one of two games Wednesday night. Del Oro (22-7), meanwhile, needs to win more game to earn another shot at the Trojans in Wednesday’s final. The Golden Eagles will face the winner of Monday night’s loser’s-bracket game between Ponderosa and Rosemont at 7 o’clock tonight at the Sacramento Softball Complex. “We definitely want another shot,” Peck said. “Obviously we’ve got to take things one game at a time – (tonight’s) game is going to be huge. But Oak Ridge is a good team, and we definitely want to see them again.”