Charlie Pikas sees six wins as the magic number to lock up one of the Western Athletic Conference’s three playoff spots this season.
His Pacheco softball team got halfway to the goal out of the gate, opening league with three straight victories. Back-to-back losses in consecutive days have brought that momentum to a halt, however, and left the Panthers little margin for error the rest of the way.
Should Pacheco miss the postseason, Pikas’ squad may look back on a lackluster performance in a 6-3 loss to Patterson on Tuesday afternoon as where it began to go wrong.
“We said it in the team huddle afterward, we’re kind of backed up against the wall now,” Pikas said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re going to have to find a way to beat Los Banos or Ceres. Central Valley gave us a heck of a game, so it’s not like they’re going to be a pushover. Six is going to be a challenge.
“We felt coming in that we match up well with Patterson and this was a game we needed to win. The kids felt like they left a lot on the field and it wasn’t our best effort, but at the same time, Patterson took it to us.”
The two teams went blow for blow out of the gate with both lineups coming out swinging.
Pacheco (7-7, 3-2 WAC) used four straight one-out hits to help plate a pair of runs in the first inning. Smanatha Jacquez (2 for 4) drove in Emma Hicks with a run-scoring single. Autumn Randles then got plunked with the bases loaded to force in a second run.
Patterson immediately answered with three in the bottom half of the inning.
Alexis Zavala tied the game with a two-out, two-run single. She came home on a fielding error to put the Tigers in front.
“I think Patterson coming right back hard like that took a lot of the wind out of our sails,” Pikas said. “We beat them pretty solidly at our place. I don’t think the girls were prepared for any team to jump out on us like that. Patterson deserves credit, though. They hit the ball well today.”
The Panthers tied things right back up in the second inning, but missed the chance for a bigger inning.
Atley Snapp led off with a single to center and a Yosselin Castillo double quickly put runners on second and third with no outs. A Hicks sacrifice fly tied the game. Pacheco failed to take the lead, however, as Jacquez popped up to third and a wandering Castillo was doubled off of second to end the threat.
It was the start of a frustrating few innings as the Panthers went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position the rest of the way.
Patterson was only slightly better, going 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position in their last four at-bats. The one proved the difference, however, as Jasmine Hernandez doubled in a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to put the Tigers up for good.
Pacheco is headed to Las Vegas for spring-break tournament this week. The team is hoping to use the trip to get some positive momentum going again.
“This was just a disappointing effort,” Jacquez said. “This is a game we should have won. We didn’t execute. We got plenty of runners on base and should have scored them, but we didn’t. We didn’t get bunts down. We couldn’t move runners around. We didn’t put enough balls in play.
“Hopefully we can use the trip to relax and do a lot of team bonding and come back ready to make the playoffs.”