Bearcats Survive Scare, Edge Jaguars 8-7

May 20, 2011
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Courtney Gano's work at Bonita is not done before the senior heads off to Washington to play college softball.

Courtney Gano's work at Bonita is not done before the senior heads off to Washington to play college softball.

Behind some clutch hitting by seniors Courtney Gano and Breeana Sandoval, Bonita came from behind in the late innings to defeat Ontario, 8-7, in the first round of softball playoff action at Las Flores Park.

Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth, Gano cracked a two-out, two run double, then came around to score on a wild pitch to give the Bearcats a 6-5 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Sandoval banged a two-out, two run single to extend Bonita’s lead to 8-5.

As it turned out, those two insurance runs were needed because Ontario scored two more runs in the top of the seventh and had the tying run at first before Bonita freshman pitcher Anissa Sanchez finally slammed the door on the stubborn Jaguars.

Many local sports scribes had picked the Bearcats (23-4) to waltz through its first round matchup, but apparently forgot to take into account that anything can happen in playoffs.

“When you get to this stage of the game, I don’t think anything is a walkover, at all,” Bonita Coach Ken Carlson said. “They may have finished fourth in their league, but they’re still a scrappy team. You can’t take them lightly, and we probably did that a little too much here.”

Carlson said his freshman hurler made the big pitches when she had to. “Big game,” Carlson sighed. “I think a lot of nerves, too. She’s growing. Each time out, especially in a format like this, she’s going to grow.”

Bonita scored three runs in the bottom of the first, the big blow coming on a double by Sandoval. The 3-0 lead held until the top of the fourth, when the Jaguars exploded for five runs, four of those coming with one swing on a grand slam by Ontario first baseman Amanda Arthur.

“You got to give it that girl,” Carlson said. “She hit the ball, she did a great job. We thought we had the pitch on her, and she turned on it. Surprised the heck out of me.”

And the crowd!

What didn’t surprise Carlson was the senior leadership displayed by his veterans like Gano, Sandoval and Kate O’Malley.

“When we get to this level, it’s all about our seniors stepping up,” Carlson said.

As for the freshman Sanchez, she got a crash course on what it’s like to be in a CIF pressure cooker, with its win-or-go-home format.

“I was really nervous at first,” Sanchez said. “After a couple of innings … no, I was nervous throughout the whole game because it was close.”

That’s when Gano and Sandoval took over. “I just knew I had to do it with two outs and I knew we needed two runs, so I just went up there trying to get a base hit,” Gano said.

Added Sandoval: “I was seeing the ball really well today; I knew I was going to be hot.”

Both seniors admitted they were nervous in the dugout before they walked to the plate for what could have been their last time as high school athletes.  “I was really nervous so I knew I had to come through as a senior,” said Sandoval, who had a game-leading three hits.

Coach Carson sees the game as a wake-up call. “It’s one of those things that rings our bell,” Carlson said. “It’ll get us back on track.”

That track heads straight to the second round.

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