Two years running
STOCKTON – She was recruited by Sacramento State as an outfielder, but after another championship pitching performance the Hornets just might want to give Kelly Shepard a shot inside the pitcher’s circle.
Shepard, Bear River’s senior right-hander, shouldered the load for Bear River Saturday, throwing her third and fourth games in less than 24 hours, as the Bruins defeated East Union in a carbon copy of Bear River’s 2007 championship run.
The Bruins came out of the consolation bracket to beat East Union 4-0 at high noon Saturday, and then scored a 2-0 win over the Lancers for the title – repeating the exact path to the 2007 crown.
“I guess we like that formula,” said Bear River coach Duane Zauner, ” … 24 hours, two trips to Stockton, four games – two on Saturday, in the sun – yeah, I guess we like it that way.”
Shepard didn’t seem to mind much either, shrugging off the workload with a wide smile after winning another pitcher’s duel with East Union ace Erin Arevalo.
“I felt a lot of pressure out there,” said Shepard, who wrapped up her senior year with a 25-2 record, a 0.54 ERA and a second-straight section crown. “I was definitely tired, no doubt about that. And the heat was definitely a factor.
“But we battled through. We did awesome. My teammates are just amazing.”
Shepard did indeed get some stellar play behind her in the field throughout the two-game title series Saturday. But facing one of the state’s top pitchers in Arevalo for the sixth time in two seasons, the Bruins took control of each contest at the plate in the first inning.
Arevalo entered the tournament with 428 strikeouts on the season, which no doubt played a big part in producing her 0.14 ERA. And, as the Modesto Bee reported, she had racked up 47 strikeouts through the first three playoff games – including 13 strikeouts against the Bruins in East Union’s 4-0 win on Friday in the winner’s bracket final.
Bear River set the tone for Saturday’s twinbill right away, jumping out to a 1-0 lead when Shepard sent a two-strike, two-out single to center field to score Kenzie Billings. Kathryn Rabak drove in a run in the third and Katie Mathis a two-run single in the fourth for the 4-0 score.
Game two’s start saw similar Bruin softball: an infield hit by sophomore Courtney Ceo is followed by a sacrifice bunt by her classmate Katie Mathis. Ceo advances to third on a wild pitch, before senior Jenna Wermes drives the run across for a 1-0 lead.
Mathis later drove in a run in the third for the 2-0 final.
“I think today we just brought so much energy,” said Bear River senior third baseman Tera Reason. “We all came together and were able to get the hits we needed. And we were able to back up Kelly.
“She’s been amazing. She’s been so crucial in our two wins.”
The way Shepard worked her way through the East Union lineup, thanks to strong defensive play throughout, the first run of each game proved to be plenty for the Bruins.
One of those defensive gems came in game one, when shortstop Ceo sped back deep in the six hole to snare a short line drive for an out and then fired a strike to first base to wrap the double play.
Game two saw two more double plays, including one at third base by Reason that ended an East Union rally that had the table set with runners at second and third. Reason snagged a sharp liner down the baseline and then tagged out the Lancer runner.
Ceo also came up with another double play up the middle, fielding a grounder, stepping on second base and firing a laser to first for the second out.
The defensive performance was key in keeping Shepard’s pitch count low in the sweltering sun of game two. Shepard totaled just two strikeouts in the final game, but scattered four hits and threw just 58 pitches in the win.
After fanning 10 Bruins in Saturday’s opener, Arevalo struck out seven Bruins in game two – which was the exact number Zauner had told his Bruins they needed to stay under.
“You have to credit Bear River. They played great. Bear River was awesome today,” said East Union coach Brian Goulart, after finishing as section runner-up to the Bruins for the second straight season. “That’s two years in a row. It’s heart-breaking. Hopefully we can turn that around in the future.”
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