PREP SOFTBALL: Bear River gears up for playoffs after roller coaster regular season
It has been a roller coaster ride of a season for the Bear River softball team, with plenty of highs and lows along the way.
Under the leadership of first year head coach Steve McCullough, the Lady Bruins started the season with a resounding win over cross-county combatant Nevada Union, but then hit the skids with eight straight losses. They would find their stride though, closing the season with wins in four of their final six games, including a pair of Pioneer Valley League victories over Foothill and Center Wednesday to earn a spot in the playoffs and keep the ride going.
“Now we’re headed in the right direction and we will be playing schools that are our size,” McCullough said as his team heads into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs. “I’m very confident in our team and where we are at. I’m very confident in what we can accomplish.”
Leading the Lady Bruins this season has been Kaitlyn Maddux with a .407 batting average, two home runs, five doubles and 16 RBIs. Maddux, who plays first base, outfield and pitches, went 4-9 from the circle with a 2.83 ERA.
“Kaitlyn had to step up and with every game she just got better and better and better,” said McCullough.
Freshmen catcher Justice Lewis has been a nice addition to the Lady Bruins this season, adding some power to the lineup. Lewis batted .380 this season and led the team in home runs (7) and RBIs (18).
Other Lady Bruins that have been strong from the plate this season include senior Kailynne VanWinkle (.383 batting average, 23 hits), junior Mallory Borrego (.341, 12 RBIs, two doubles, home run) and senior Kayla Toft, whose bat has become hot down the stretch.
Bear River pitcher Arielle Koerber’s return from injury this week gives the Lady Bruins added punch from the circle and from the plate. Koerber only played in seven games this season, but batted .500 with two doubles, two triples and nine RBIs in those games. She was also 3-1 from the circle, including a complete game shutout win over Center in the final game of the regular season.
“Koerber was just awesome for us,” McCullough said of his pitcher’s performance against Center.
Bear River (7-12) now heads into the D-V playoffs as the No. 5 seed and will travel to face No. 4 seed Amador Wednesday.
The berth into the playoffs is the 11th straight for the Lady Bruins, dating back to 2007. Bear River won section titles in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, and reached the D-IV section title game last season.
Nevada Union Lady Miners
It was a rough season for the Lady Miners who went 4-21 overall and 0-12 in Sierra Foothill League play.
After starting the season 4-6 in non-league play, the Lady Miners lost the next 15 games.
Bright spots for the Nevada Union came from Alex Pussich (.431, two home runs, nine double, 12 RBIs), Kaitlin Trace (.365, two home runs, 16 RBIs), Lexi Blackston (.400, two triples, five doubles) and Riley Newman (.327, four doubles).
Forest Lake Christian Falcons
Forest Lake Christian (15-8) took third place in the Central Valley California League and is back in the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Leading the Falcons has been Brett Soria, who put up monster numbers this season. The senior batted .614 with five home runs, five doubles, two triples and 30 RBIs.
Other key contributors for FLC include Harry Zea (.469, six doubles, 14 RBIs), Jeremy Grady (.302, two home runs, four doubles, 18 RBIs), Austin Metz (.429, 13 RBIs), Donald Cameron (.347, 13 RBIs), Matt La Rocca (.239, 13 RBIs) and Casey Kleeschulte (.359, two doubles).
From the bump, the Falcons have been led by Zea (4-1, 2.18 ERA), Metz (3-4, 4.10 ERA), Soria (3.50 ERA) and La Rocca (4-1, 3.07 ERA).
The Falcons are the No. 9 seed in the D-VI bracket and will open the 2017 playoffs Monday on the road at No. 8 Ripon Christian.
Nevada Union Miners
The Miners were never able to put it all together on the field and it led to a 6-20 record during the season and a last place finish in the Sierra Foothill League.
“Even though our record wasn’t very good, I felt like we competed most games,” said Nevada Union head coach Ted White. “We just never seemed to click in all three phases of the game. We never really we put it all together — solid pitching, hitting and fielding.”
Bright spots for Nevada Union include junior outfielder Owen Day (.395, 16 doubles, two home runs, 25 RBIs), junior catcher Luke Cornish (.292, 11 RBIs), senior Ben Powell (13 RBIs), sophomore Nick Noll (.256, six doubles, 12 RBIs) and sophomore James Nolen (.276, six doubles).
White added that several younger players logged a lot of playing time this year and is optimistic about next season.
Nevada Union’s playoff drought now dates back to 2006.
Bear River Bruins
The Bruins had their playoff hopes dashed in the final week of the season. Bear River needed to knock off rival Colfax twice down the stretch but lost both games to finish 8-19 overall and in fifth place in the PVL with a 5-10 league record.
Leading Bear River this season was junior catcher Jake Rogers (.300, home run, eight doubles, 19 RBIs), junior Justin Kilgore (.301, 21 RBIs), junior Aaron Sasaville (.308, 10 RBIs), junior Clay Corippo (.310, nine RBIs), senior Peyton Turner (.286, five doubles, nine RBIs), senior Jared Van Vlack (.278, five RBIs) and junior Anthony Crawford (11 RBIs). Senior pitcher Trevor Hening led the team from the bump with a 3.30 ERA in 46.2 innings pitched.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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EL DORADO — Nevada Union’s up and down season continued Friday night as the Miners struggled mightily in a 41-7 loss to the Union Mine Diamondbacks.