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No Pressure: A Trio of Nerve-Racking Regular-Season Finales

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Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 12:36 am

It's getting to crunch time.

The regular season is winding down. Legs are sore, arms are tired.  Minds may be drained.

Scheduling, however, cares little for those concerns.

Three local prep sports teams are facing some high-pressure games during their final regular-season finales this week. Two have playoff berths on the line, and the other has a legacy of dominance to defend -- not to mention, some revenge to exact.

Here's a mini-preview:


1. Today: Liberty Ranch Softball vs. Union Mine, Galt Softball Complex

Well, well. What a difference a couple of weeks makes.

On April 18, the Lady Hawks were perched atop the Sierra Valley Conference standings with a 5-1 league record, fresh off a 6-0 trouncing of city rival Galt.

And now? They are fighting for their postseason lives, having dropped four of their last five league games -- the latest setback being Wednesday against Cosumnes Oaks.

Now, it all comes down to today for Liberty Ranch (9-9, 6-5 SVC), which faces Union Mine in a must-win, 3:30 p.m. tilt. A victory, and the Lady Hawks force a third-place tie, along with a rematch next Tuesday to determine the SVC's last section playoff spot.

One unhelpful omen: Liberty Ranch just dropped a 6-1 decision against  Union Mine on Monday.


2. Friday: Lodi Girls Soccer vs. Franklin, Lodi High

After the Lady Flames were trounced, 7-0, by Tracy on April 20, head coach Tim Stutz joked: "Some days you're the hammer, on others the nail."

Lodi hasn't suffered similar-sized losses since, but hasn't been on the winning side of any contests, either. Wednesday's narrow loss to Chavez marked the Flames' third straight 2-1 defeat -- all against teams that they had either tied or beaten earlier this season.

Injuries have been an issue for the Flames, who have seen key strikers Kelsey Gini and Dezeri Barba go down during the losing streak.

Now, it's a 'Win and You're In" situation on Friday at home versus Franklin. Having beaten the Yellowjackets on April 18, Lodi needs another victory to assure itself a playoff spot.


3. Friday: Elliot Softball at Millennium

Well, that was something completely different.

The powerhouse Lady Eagles saw their aura of invincibility wiped out in Tuesday's stunning home upset loss to Millennium. 

Now, Elliot needs a victory in tomorrow's road rematch to salvage a share of the CCAA title.

Head coach Mike Pontius did acknowledge the difficulty of playing every game with a target on his team's back, knowing his small school power will get the best shot from every opponent.

"It’s a burden, but it just comes with the territory. We feel fortunate in that respect," he said. "(Teams) have celebrations when they beat us, and they should. We just got to go out there and play the game."

Which means, first and foremost, shoring up a defense that got sloppy and cost Elliot the game in the final inning on Tuesday. The Eagles' offense was potent, belting out nine hits, and Katie Kishi pitched well enough to walk away with the victory.

However, both of Millennium's runs in the bottom of the seventh came off of errors. Five of their seven total runs were unearned.

"Funny thing is, we had one of our best defensive sets (the day before). It’s the nature of the sport, nature of the game," Pontius said. "One point you're coming out here and everything is clicking, and the next day not."

Against a Falcons team whose glove-work proved to be the difference on Tuesday, making sure a sharp Elliot defense shows up in Tracy will be the key.




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