Bruins softball team set for rematch
STOCKTON – Once the final pitch had been thrown in the 2007 Division IV softball championship game – and Bear River had won the school’s first softball section title – East Union coach Brian Goulart grabbed the hand of Bruin coach Duane Zauner and said “See you next year.”
Sure enough, Bear River and East Union will square off once again, as the Bruins and Lancers meet in the winner’s bracket final of the D-IV playoffs Friday at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton.
“I can’t wait for that,” said Bear River senior Kelly Shepard, who had just pitched her second shutout in less than four hours to lead the Bruins within one win of a second-straight title game appearance. “It’s going to be so fun. We’re so pumped up for that.”
Shepard and East Union ace are both expected to be back in the pitcher’s circle for the showdown Friday, about 12 months after their previous duel in the 2007 title contest. East Union downed Whitney 2-0 Wednesday to ensure the rematch.
The Bruins (27-2), the Pioneer Valley League champs, also advanced to the winner’s bracket final on the heels of a tight game. Shepard racked up 14 strikeouts in securing a 1-0 victory, which was just the second loss of the season for Rio Linda (27-2).
“That’s the best pitching performance I’ve seen at Bear River in my 14 years as coach,” Bear River coach Duane Zauner said. “Especially as big of a game that was with such pressure situations.”
The game was pressure-packed throughout, even after Bear River earned the contest’s lone run. The Bruins broke open a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Shepard led off with a double to left-center field.
After moving over to third base on a passed ball, Shepard stood on the bag as Zauner shared the strategy.
“I told Kathryn (Rabak) to hit a ground ball to second base and we’ll win the game,” Zauner said.
Rabak followed her marching orders by perfectly placing the ball on the right side, forcing Rio Linda to make a play at the plate. But knowing her senior teammate was told to go the opposite way, Shepard sped home as soon as the ball was hit, well before the ball arrived.
The run was all the offense Shepard would need on this night. The Knights brought the potential tying run to third base in the top of the sixth inning, when Danielle Anderson reached first on a throwing error by Shepard.
After stealing second base and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, Anderson offered Rio Linda its best opportunity of the night to push a run across the plate.
But Shepard sat down the next batter looking for the second out and then forced a fly ball to right, which Brooke Mosman ran down to end the threat and the inning.
In the seventh, the Knights never got close to a comeback. Shepard sat down all three hitters in the final frame for the win.
“That was so much fun,” Shepard said. “I just love the excitement. And I was just so confident because of my teammates. They’re great. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
With the rematch with East Union looming Friday, Rabak said the Bruins got off to the start they had hoped for in their bid for back-to-back section crowns.
“We’re coming out of the gates running,” Rabak said. “All year, it’s all been geared around this week. We’re just ready to go.”
The Bruins and Lancers will meet at 5 p.m. Friday, with the winner advancing directly to Saturday’s championship game. Rio Linda and Whitney will also play at 5 p.m., with the winner meeting the loser of the Bear River-East Union showdown later that night for the second title game berth.
Bear River 6, Sierra 0
The Bruins got all the offense they would need in the first inning of their playoff-opening matchup with Sierra, as Kelly Shepard threw an eight-strikeout shutout for the win.
Courtney Ceo led the Bruins off with a liner to left field, followed by drag bunt base hit by Katie Mathis and the table was set. Jenna Wermes brought home the game’s first run on a fielder’s choice, which was followed by three more scores before the inning came to an end.
“That was a great way to start,” said Zauner. “That’s the thing with these girls, they’re ready to go from the beginning.”
Ceo and Mathis each went 2-for-4 hitting with two runs scored, Tori Humbard was 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Kelly Shepard drove in 3 runs and was 3-for-4 at the plate.
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