MORADA — Liberty Ranch High softball coach Shauna DalBianco only had five words to say:
“Today was not our day.”
Well, DalBianco offered more words. For four innings in Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff game, No. 5 Liberty Ranch stayed with top-seed Ripon. But Ripon’s bats produced extra-base hits that led to a 5-1 win at the Arnaiz Softball Complex.
“It wasn’t 100 percent today,” DalBianco said.
Now dropped into the losers’ bracket of the double-elimination portion of the playoffs, Liberty Ranch (16-6) faces No. 3 Casa Roble of Orangevale, as No. 2 Calaveras defeated the Rams 7-0 in the other game, today at 3 p.m. This is the second time in a week Liberty Ranch and Casa Roble have met in the playoffs but different sports; Casa Roble beat Liberty Ranch 4-1 in the section’s D-IV baseball playoff game in Orangevale on May 17.
The Liberty Ranch-Casa Roble winner would play the Ripon-Calaveras loser at 5:15 p.m., also today. The winner of that game would advance to the section’s title game on Friday. All of those playoff games will be at Arnaiz.
Liberty Ranch had a short-lived 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning with one out. Kharizma Lathipanya-Kham hit a single in which the softball lined drive into left field. After a fly out gave Ripon (22-2) its second out, Hawks sophomore shortstop Presli Kooyman drove in Lathipanya-Kham with a single to right field.
Then the Hawks’ bats went silent the rest of the game. Liberty Ranch, which won the Sierra Valley Conference title, went hitless. Ripon pitcher Sydney Thomason struck out three Hawk batters.
“We couldn’t adjust to the slow pitching, we were out on our front foot, we were swinging at crappy pitches,” DalBianco said.
Liberty Ranch finished with only three hits in the game; Haley Ward had a triple in which the softball drove deep to the right-center field wall in the top of the second inning with two outs. But Ward was left stranded on the bag, as the Indians got a grounder to end the Hawks’ threat.
Ripon tied the game in the bottom of the third. Myra Toledo walked and scored on McKenna Daley’s double to the left-center fence.
Liberty Ranch pitcher Audrey Brookins did her job in sitting down Ripon batters for four innings. She struck out four Indian batters and gave up Daley’s double.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Indians’ bats started to make some noise that led to a 2-1 lead. Toledo reached base again without a hit by being hit by pitch. Then she scored again when Daley smacked her second double of the game; this one curving to left field.
“We walked the girl who scored, we hit the girl who scored,” said DalBianco of Toledo.
Then Ripon only needed two hits to score its final three runs to seal the win. One of them was Mackenzie Hutchinson’s three-run home run that sailed over the left field fence, driving home teammates Thomason (single) and Bianca Toledo (walk).
“I know she (Brookins) doesn’t like to lose; she’s a competitor,” DalBianco said. “I know that’s got to eat her up to be taken out of the game like that, after a home run.”
Brookins went 5 1/3 innings for the Hawks. Amanda Yebra tossed the rest of the game.
DalBianco feels confident her Hawks will perform better entering today’s win-or-go home game against Casa Roble. She’s planning to send Brookins, a four-year starter who will continue pitching at Cosumnes River College next spring, back to the circle.
“They are not use to losing,” DalBianco said. “Maybe this is a wake-up call. Aubrey is my starting pitcher, and she’s going to start (today). She’s going to get that chance. That’s not my thing as a coach to say ‘no, you sucked yesterday that was your chance.’ I want them to have a positive experience, pitch through it.”
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.