Bear River faces River Valley in opening round of playoffs |

Bear River faces River Valley in opening round of playoffs

Know & Go

What: Sac-Joaquin Section D-III softball playoffs

Who: Bear River vs. River Valley

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Sacramento Softball Complex

Cost: $7 (adults), $5 (seniors and students), Free (children under 5)

The Bear River softball team is back on the title hunt and the trek to their sixth section championship in the last eight years starts today.

"I'm really excited," Bear River head coach Duane Zauner said. "We talk about the two seasons — the regular and the postseason — this is where you make a name for yourself."

Zauner, a five-time section champ, and the Lady Bruins (18-6-1, 9-1 Pioneer Valley League) will face River Valley from Yuba City in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin section D-III softball playoffs at 6 p.m. today at the Sacramento Softball Complex.

Bear River enters the contest on the heels of a third straight PVL title and riding the right arm of sophomore pitcher and 2014 PVL MVP Nerissa Long.

The talented hurler finished the regular season with a 16-4 record and a 0.72 ERA. Long pitched 15 complete games this season, recorded nine shutouts and struck out 239 batters in 171 innings pitched.

Long will face a River Valley team that finished 11-11 overall and tied for third place in the Tri-County League.

Bear River and River Valley did play each other in early March. In that game Long struck out 13 batters and the Lady Bruins won 2-1.

"That was at the beginning of the season," Zauner said. "It's a different ball game now and they will be prepared for us."

The Lady Falcons are led by junior Kaitlyn Combo, who boasts a .508 batting average, five home runs and 29 RBIs.

Combo is also River Valley's top pitcher, throwing 93 innings this season with a 7-8 record and a 1.72 ERA.

"They are a good team, from a quality conference," Zauner said. "They've been in the playoffs for a couple years running and we will have to play a good game if we want to win."

The Lady Bruins made a spirited run through the D-III bracket in 2013, but managed just four runs in three games as they were ousted by eventual section champ Pioneer in the quarterfinals.

This year they bring a lot more fire power on the offensive end.

Bear River is led at the plate by junior catcher Mikayla Laymance (.412 bating average, 8 doubles, 11 RBIs). Also solidifying the Lady Bruins' lineup is Long (.408 batting average, 7 doubles, 3 home runs, 19 RBIs), Rachel Last (.397 batting average, 4 triples, 2 home runs, 25 runs scored) and Arielle Koerber (.361 batting average, 20 RBIs).

Laymance and Last both were named to the All-PVL team for the second straight season. Bear River's Danielle Crilly received All-PVL honorable mention.

Throughout the season Bear River has outscored their opponents 113-46 and bats .302 as a team. River Valley has a team batting average .301 and has scored 123 runs this season and allowed 91.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email