KINGSBURG - A two-hitter by Kayla Medrano and back-to-back home runs from Marissa Gonzalez and Taryn Irigoyen propelled the top-seeded Vikings to a 5-0 win over No. 8 Sanger in the Central Section Division II quarterfinals on Thursday.
The win advanced Kingsburg ( 22-5-1, 9-3 CSL) to the Division II semifinals for the second-straight season. The Vikings faced No. 4 Redwood (17-12, 8-2 WYL) at home on Tuesday (after press time).
Last season as the No. 3 seed, Kingsburg was eliminated by No. 2 Edison 13-3 on the road in the semifinals.
“On Tuesday, hopefully we could just come out and defensively play like we did today,” Vikings head coach Randy Sieger said. “Offensively, hopefully we play a little bit better than we play today, but defensively if we play like that we’ll be fine.”
In the quarterfinals, Kingsburg took a 3-0 lead after taking advantage of miscues from the Apaches in the second inning. The Vikings loaded the bases without recording a hit. Brianna Vela reached on a fielder’s choice, followed by Madison Alves being hit by a pitch, and Caitlyn Vela drew a walk. Brianna Vela reached base after Sanger’s defense retired Irigoyen at second for the force out. Irigoyen hit a single to leadoff the inning.
With one out in a bases loaded situation, Kingsburg scored it’s first two runs on an error by Sanger third baseman Janessa Montejano. The fielding error was a misplayed ball on a grounder that came from the bat of Mia Estrada. Brianna Vela and Alves scored on the play while Caitlyn Vela advanced to third. Estrada reached second on the error.
Blaire Willson drove in Caitlyn Vela on an RBI single for the Vikings’ third run of the inning.
After Kingsburg was held scoreless in the third and fourth innings, Gonzalez and Irigoyen hit their back-to-back solo homers in the fifth.
“That’s pretty incredible, you don’t see that very much,” Sieger said. “[Gonzalez] has hit a bunch of them this year, but I was pleased with Taryn because she hit the fence about 10 times this year and those balls almost went out... I don’t think we’ve ever done that since I’ve been coaching here.”
Gonzalez’s solo shot was her 10th home run of the season, but for Irigoyen, it was her first time knocking one out of the park in her career.
“I’ve been having warning track power this whole season,” Irigoyen said. “It’s the ones you least expect though. I was just smoothing out that swing and I was glad to do that in a playoff game.”
Medrano (11-3) pitched her fourth complete game shutout of the season. In seven innings, the sophomore only struck out one batter, but she used her defense by retiring hitters on fly balls and ground outs.
Sanger catcher Katelyn Estep was the only player to hit off of Medrano. Estep hit a lead-off double in the second inning and a single in the seventh.
“I’m just excited,” Medrano said about her first career start. “I came in with the mentality that we were going to win and we won.”
It was Medrano’s first career playoff start, but it was her fourth overall postseason game. Medrano was part of last year’s Exeter team that won the Division IV championship, but she didn’t pitch in any of the Monarchs playoff games. As a freshman, Medrano was in the Exeter’s starting lineup majority of the season, but was mainly used a utility player on the field.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot,” Medrano said. “I’ve feel I’ve gotten faster, stronger. My spin has not gone to it’s full potential, but it’s gotten better.”
The Central Section Division II championship game will be played at Margie Wright Diamond at Fresno State on Saturday. First pitch is currently scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Kingsburg was seeking it’s first Valley championship appearance since 2014. That game ended in a 9-3 loss to the Redwood Rangers in the Division III title game. The last time the Vikings won a Valley championship was in 2013, which was a 3-2 win over the Rangers in the same division.