"We have to look at the big picture of what they left on the field last year," said first-year Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo, referring to the Guards' 7-6 loss to Pomona Catholic in last year's championship. "There's steps to that — step one today and step two Tuesday. We are at step one and the reward is at the end of the playoff run where they want to get [to the championship]. So we are definitely on the pace for that."
Things got out of hand quickly Friday, as the Guards (19-5-2) — the three-time Santa Cruz League champions — got out to a 9-0 lead after they scored three runs in the first and six more in the second.
Pitcher Mia Acosta allowed just three base runners — via a walk and two hit by pitches — and struck out seven through four innings in the circle for Bell-Jeff. The Guards also got three innings of shutout relief from Amanda Maalouf, who struck out five and gave up two hits and a walk.
The victory puts Bell-Jeff at Animo Leadership (14-10), in the second round Tuesday with a possible rematch with top-seeded Pomona Catholic (22-7) in the works for the division title.
"I think we just need to go out there, have fun and leave it all out on the field," said Bell-Jeff's Samantha Casarez, who was three for four with four runs batted in Friday, of the team's focus for the playoffs. "We just have to keep staying together, stay out of trouble, play hard and keep up the good work."
Bell-Jeff's Sofia Palacios (three for five, three RBI) doubled home Priscilla Panizo (two for four, three stolen bases and an RBI) for the first run of the game. Casarez staked Bell-Jeff to a 3-0 lead when she doubled in two more runs in the opening frame.
Six more runs came on four hits and two errors in the bottom of the second, with the big blow of the inning coming off the bat of Monique Landini (two for three, two RBI), who hit a two-run homer to push the lead to 7-0.
Panizo and Palacios also singled in runs in the inning.
"You don't want to give them any hope because they're in the playoffs just like us," Galindo said. "I am glad we took care of it, but it's just only one game and we're looking forward to the next game."
The Guards scored eight more times in the fourth with only one hit — a two-RBI single from Casarez — as Bell-Jeff coaxed four walks and reached on three Cubs (15-11) errors in the inning.
Palacios capped the scoring when she doubled home Panizo, who walked and moved to third on a Landini double.
Alana Smith broke up Bell-Jeff's bid for a no-hitter when she singled aboard in the top of the fifth for the California School for the Deaf, which received its final hit on a leadoff single from Alexa Muller in the seventh.