ROCKVILLE — Sometimes all you need is one big inning, great defense and a timely wild pitch.
The Solano Community College softball team scored eight runs on eight hits – all in the third inning – and then scored three times in the bottom of the sixth inning – the last on a wild pitch – to pick up an 11-3 win over Fresno City College in the opening round of a NorCal Super Regional, Friday.
The win puts the Falcons (39-2), who won their 32nd straight game, into the semifinals. They will face Sierra at noon, Saturday, for a shot at the regional championship and a berth in the state tournament, Sunday.
Sierra defeated Santa Rosa in Friday’s other contest.
The Falcons looked to be in trouble early as the Rams (27-14) loaded the bases in the first inning against SCC starter Shannon Mestas, thanks in part to two errors.
But SCC’s defense came through, getting an out on a pop-up bunt and catch by catcher Victoria Faleafine, a fielder’s choice at home plate and then a strikeout by Mestas, allowing the Falcons to escape the jam.
Mestas said she noticed in the opening inning what she needed to do after getting in trouble.
“I just figured out that I wasn’t going to overpower these girls and strike them out,” the freshman said. “I just had to let the ball get into play and let my defense do some work.”
Coach Terri Pearson-Bloom admitted that the underclassmen may have been a little nervous.
“I do think some of the freshmen, this is a lot of pressure for them,” the coach said. “Shannon is pitching through her nerves. She’s certainly not throwing her ‘A’ game, but she can win with her ‘B’ game. That is what’s so great about her. She has a team behind her.”
After neither team made a threat in the second inning, Solano’s defense really came through in the top of the third.
Fresno started the inning with back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third with one out.
Up came the Rams’ Selena Ruiz, who put a shallow pop-up into the wind in left field that looked like it wouldn’t be caught. But out of nowhere, left fielder Haley Wink made an all-out diving catch to save a pair of runs. Mestas then ended the inning with another strikeout.
“I was just so proud of our defense in this game,” Pearson-Bloom said. “We had some incredible moments and we train so hard in practice for those. In the first inning, when the catcher Bella (Faleafine) dove and made that catch, it swung the momentum of what could have been a huge inning for them into now a big out.
“And then that diving catch in left field. In the regionals, it’s about the team that can make the big plays. The ones who do become champions. That was going to score two runs if she didn’t catch it. She came out of nowhere. It was amazing. I’m so proud of her.”
Then came the bottom of the third when the Falcons scored all the runs they would need.
Danielle Emge and Brittany Taglieri led off the inning with singles and both would come around to score on a single by co-state player of the year Aleyna Benipayo. Benipayo was then thrown out at second on a throw from home.
Stefanie Chainurux got things going again with a walk. After Mestas and Emily Goode reached base, Solano upped the score to 3-0 on a bases-loaded walk by Amber Takeda.
SCC then broke the game open when Jade Bactad cleared the bases with a double to left-center. Takeda ended up scoring on a single by Faleafine, who was later plated on an infield single by Taglieri, giving SCC an 8-0 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“It takes a lot of weight off our shoulders so you can have some fun and relax with a lead instead of having to worry about coming back or still being tied,” Mestas said of her team’s rally in the third. “That was a really good feeling.”
Pearson-Bloom was excited that a lot of the team got into the act in the victory.
“What was awesome, too, was some different heroes today,” the coach said. “It all starts with our No. 9 hitter Danielle, who’s hot and being the spark, starting the fire. And then Jade coming through with a big clutch hit. Then our sophomore Stefanie, seeing that pitcher was slow to cover home and comes home (for the game-ending run).
“It’s nice to see everybody else step up. It’s a team sport. We play as a team. It’s always different kids that are heroes. That’s what makes them so good.”
Now that the team is in the winner’s bracket, Pearson-Bloom knows her team has some momentum playing at home.
“They are fired up,” she said. “Coming in as a champion is so important because you have that confidence, that momentum. You know that you deserve to be here. This is our house. We’re at home, so someone is going to have to take it from us. We’re not going to just give it up.”
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.