|Pleasant Grove softball team celebrates a playoff win|
The Pleasant Grove junior needed to come through for her softball team when she came to bat to lead off the top of the seventh inning, tied with Elk Grove, 0-0, in a do-or-die first round game of the playoffs.
“The swing felt great. I just kept the head down on the ball,” Miller described her towering home run that was the game winner in the Eagles’ 3-0 victory in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I softball tournament Saturday.
The win meant the Eagles, the defending Section Division I runner-ups a year ago, would continue on into the double-elimination portion of the tournament later that afternoon at the Sacramento Softball Complex.
“When we play Elk Grove, sort of like when we play Sheldon, our biggest rivals, the girls seem to press,” Pleasant Grove co-head coach Russ Pettis said. “So we try to get the girls to just put the ball into play.”
Pettis was definitely relieved and joyed when he watched Miller’s shot to give the Eagles the only run they would need.
“She’s had an up-and-down year,” Pettis said. “I’ve coached her in travel ball and I know she can hit the ball like that. Obviously, it was our spark in the seventh inning.”
It also meant Elk Grove, the Delta Valley Conference champions, would go home, ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
|Celina Matthias strikes out seven Sat. in shutting out EG|
“It’s tough,” Herd coach Jeff Alexander said. “I was just telling the kids when two great teams come together, one of them has to lose. We can be disappointed in the outcome, but very, very proud in the effort. It was a hard one, a hard one, but one of the better games we played all year.”
The game pitted two quality pitchers in the Eagles’ Celina Matthias and the Herd’s Kimberly Wilburn. The pair battled inning by inning, both having to pitch out of jams in a couple different places.
Going into the final inning Matthias had allowed only four hits, while striking out five batters. Wilburn had given up just three hits and had fanned six.
Wilburn had to pitch out of a bases-loaded situation with one out in the second inning, plus a first-and-second predicament in the sixth. She struck out the final batter in both innings.
“We were bending, but we weren’t breaking,” Alexander said. “Even before the game I said to Coach (Amanda) Buck, ‘I don’t know, the wind is blowing out. I got to think the long ball will play into the game today.’ And, I was right.”
After Miller’s dinger to give Pleasant Grove a 1-0 seventh-inning advantage, Sabrina Hicks and Victoria Camina each hit singles then an error on Alexa McCoin’s ground ball allowed Hicks to score. Camina came in on a sacrifice fly by Vanessa Washington.
Nursing a 3-0 lead, Matthias came on in the bottom of the seventh. But, she gave up a lead off double Morgan Evangelista. Then the Sacramento State-bound hurler struck out Victorio Saborio and Emily Brueker before getting Courtney Riley to end the game on a fly ball to right field.
Winning the first round game Saturday, meant Pleasant Grove would advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament and that meant a little less pressure on the squad.
“Obviously it does feel better because it doesn’t mean if we lose we’re out,” Pettis said. “But, if you look at the bracket, all the tougher teams are in the upper bracket.”