ELK GROVE — One more out was all that No. 10 seed Lodi High softball team needed to extend its Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff run by at least two more games.
But No. 2 seed Elk Grove cooled off the Flames’ dreams of advancing. But the Thundering Herd had to go extra innings to post a 4-3 win over Lodi (13-7) in the second round of post-season action Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m a little sad,” said Lodi coach Michelle Souza. “I wanted it more for them because they deserved it. We played a great team. It just didn’t fall in our court today.”
This is the third time in four seasons Lodi has seen its playoff run end in the second round. A victory would’ve put the Flames as part of the final four with No. 6 Folsom, No. 4 Tracy and No. 1 Whitney of Rocklin all of whom won their second round games. The third round becomes a double-elimination tournament.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Lodi led 3-2. The Flames recorded the first two outs when third baseman Shelby Katzakian caught a fly ball just outside the foul line and second baseman Madison Faul backhanded a grounder and threw to first baseman Danielle Pfennig.
Then Elk Grove’s No. 3 hitter Brooklynn Pettis stepped into the batter’s box. She poked a rise ball deep over the Thundering Herd’s right field fence, which is 190 feet, for a solo home run to tie the game at 3-3.
“I knew she was a good hitter,” said Souza of Pettis. “She snuck the better of the (pitch) up.”
The Flames ended the inning when center fielder Marissa Fabian caught a deep fly ball off the bat of Elk Grove’s Katherine Wolf. That sent the game into extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth by both teams, Fabian reached first base after being hit on the left knee in the top of the ninth inning. Elk Grove (20-8) had one out and caught a break on a double play; Lodi’s Haley Price hit a short pop fly to Thundering Herd pitcher Ava Hand, who quickly tossed the ball to first base to pick off Fabian for the third out.
In the bottom of the ninth, Elk Grove pinch-hitter Montgomery Berner was hit by a pitch. She moved to second base when Malia Villegas had a sacrifice bunt for the Flames’ first out. After Schroeder caught a shallow fly ball for the second out, Elk Grove’s Angelica Cano smacked a double that flew into right-center field; the softball hit the ground and rolled toward the fence. That sent Berner home with the game-winning run.
Elk Grove trimmed Lodi’s lead to 3-2in the bottom of the fifth inning when Cano had her first extra-base hit of the game; a double to left field. She scored on Pettis’ double that went to right-center field.
Lodi, which had five hits in the game, would score its final run in the top of the fourth inning for a 3-1 lead. Schroeder doubled down the third base line deep into left field. She touched home plate when Pfennig singled to center field.
In the bottom of the third, Miranda singled. She moved to second on a grounder that a Lodi infielder overthrew the softball, sending Miranda to third base. The softball was not relayed back to Toy in the circle in time, as Miranda stole home that helped Elk Grove trim Lodi’s lead to 2-1.
“A bad inning,” Souza said. “We didn’t get the outs that we needed. Yeah, I believe it would’ve been a different ball game.”
Souza set the stage for Fabian (2-for-4 with two RBIs) in the top of the second inning that gave Lodi a 2-0 lead. Schroeder and Pfennig drew walks. Then Souza called for a double steal that sent Schroeder to third and Pfennig to second. Then Fabian doubled to left field that drove in Schroeder and Pfennig.
“They gave me an outside pitch, and with runners in scoring position, I had to take it the other way to get the RBIs,” Fabian said.
Souza added, “Marissa has, as you know, been hitting the ball well.”
Toy, a junior left-handed pitcher, and Hand each went the distance for their respective teams. They combined to give up 14 hits. But Toy was responsible for six outs that were a mixture of fly balls, grounders and one double play.
“I’m just proud of Ashlee,” Souza said.
Although the playoffs ended a little sooner than they expected, Souza and Fabian talked about the Flames’ success this spring.
“Great group of girls; I couldn’t ask for more,” Souza said. “I haven’t had that in a long time. We had a great attitude all year. We played as a team all year. That’s why we’re here today.”
Fabian, who ends her high school athletic career as a three-sport athlete in softball, basketball and volleyball, added, “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to play with for my last season.”
After she graduates from Lodi High on Friday, May 31, Fabian will be enrolling at the University of the Pacific. She plans to try out for Pacific’s softball team. Price, along with Faul and Pfennig, will be playing college softball at Thomas University, McPherson College and Cosumnes River College in Sacramento starting in 2020.
In other playoff news, the Liberty Ranch-Marysville softball playoff game was postponed due to the field conditions. The game is scheduled to be played today at 4 p.m.
According to Shauna DalBianco, her squad was getting ready to leave the Galt campus for the two-hour drive to Marysville just after 1 p.m. That’s when Liberty Ranch Athletic Director informed her that the game had been postponed.
Weather forecasters are calling for more rain to hit the region today. For updates on playoff brackets, visit the section’s website – cifsjs.org.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.