'Small ball' key to Panther's softball

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 8, 2013 

A year ago, an overwhelmed Pacheco softball team had a scratch and claw for every run it got. The Panthers learned how to play small ball and manufacture runs through steals, hit-and-runs and sacrifices.

The Panthers displayed those skills, which they now consider a strength, in a 5-3 win over Turlock on Tuesday at PHS.

Senior third-baseman Mariah Ruiz, Pacheco's second batter, got things started against Turlock pitcher Mariah Gonzalez with an infield bunt single, then stole second and third. After Claudia Garcia walked, freshman Kayla Valdez launched a triple down the right field line to score both, then later scored on a passed ball.

"Last year, that was what we had to do. So I think the returners understand what it takes to get a run across," Pacheco coach Charlie Pikas said. "And if they're doing the little things like that, all of a sudden we get a big swing like we got, now all of a sudden instead of getting that one run, we're getting a couple. That's a big difference right now, is we're getting some tougher hits."

The senior experience of players like Ruiz and Garcia comes with a strong youth movement of players like Valdez (3-for-3 with a triple and a double against Turlock) and pitcher Shyanne Vargas, who joins sophomore returner Jennifer Eagleton in the circle.

Vargas pitched a complete game against Turlock with five strikeouts, going pitch-for-pitch against Turlock's Gonzalez, also a freshman.

"It's a challenge for all of us, and it's hard to change from a slow pitcher to a fast pitcher," Ruiz said. "We all worked hard to get through it. We have a good team on our hands."

Vargas allowed a run in the third inning, but stranded Turlock's Nicole Vizcaino, who brought home the run with a double. After Pacheco's Valdez scored on a wild pitch and Vargas came across on a passed ball, Turlock put two across with RBI singles by Nicole Vasquez and Gonzalez to close the gap to 2 runs.

"We believe completely in our two pitchers, Shyanne and Jen we trust them to be able to go out and do what needs to be done," Pikas said. "They've kept us in all the ballgames so far. Today was Shy's turn to pitch, and we weren't going to take the ball from her because it's preseason. We're going to let them work through all the stuff they have to work on and get better out of it."

Vargas finished the last two innings pitching to contact, inducing groundouts and easy fly balls while allowing a lone single in the seventh inning.

On Wednesday, the Panthers entered a run of eight games in seven days, defeating Davis 6-1 and losing 13-5 to Orestimba at the Ceres Tournament to bring their record to 5-3.

"We're using this. There's nothing like gained experience," Pikas said. "Like I just told the girls, it's hard to work on things that we see in the game, because we don't have a lot of practice time right now, so that's why we're trying to get out here in these games to at least learn on the fly."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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