HANFORD — The Bullpups were tested in Thursday’s CIF Central Section Division II quarterfinals — and they passed with flying colors.
Tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, No. 2 seed Hanford (22-6, 9-1 WYL) had just seen their once three-run lead disappear over the last two innings. They didn’t panic and they didn’t quit, they just hit.
The team batted around the order, took advantage of some miscues and scored six runs to win 9-3 over No. 7 seed Ridgeview and advance to the semifinals.
“I’m happy for the girls,” Hanford coach Donnie Fagundes said. “They’ve had some goals that they set early on. One was get through league, we did that, and now let’s get through playoffs.”
Hanford had struggled to find any sort rhythm at the plate, often grounding out on one or two pitches, but put it all together in the sixth.
Mia Stewart and Lillianna Garcia hit back-to-back one-out singles. Jenna Leavens grounded to the second baseman, who bobbled the ball and then made an errant throw to first. The bad throw allowed Stewart and Garcia to both come home with Garcia sliding head first to beat the throw to make it 5-3.
“At first I wasn’t going to go because I was like, ‘I’m slow, I can’t do this,’ but Donnie was sending me,” Garcia said. “I saw the throw coming in and I was like, ‘I need to get down,’ and, unfortunately, I don’t know how to slide feet first, so I just went in head first.”
After an ecstatic Garcia spit out some dirt, the Bullpups continued their offensive onslaught. Mackensie Snyder and Hannah Costa both hit RBI singles. Marissa Cruz hit a bases-loaded single to score a run and Emily Juarez, who walked to load the bases, eventually scored on a fielder’s choice.
“When we came in we just said let’s just get one and get ahead and then we’ll play from there,” Fagundes said. “Then when you get the first one on and the second one and the next thing you got a runner in scoring position and then the floodgates just open.”
Hanford sent 11 batters to the plate and had five hits, which more than doubled their two hits through the first five innings of play.
Before their offensive outburst, the Bullpups led 3-1 heading into the sixth inning and had played excellent defense up until this point. But an error allowed a runner from third base to score and the batter to reach third to cut the lead to one. An RBI single followed to tie the game.
After the tying run scored, catcher Mia Hernandez called for time and huddled up the infield, while Juarez did the same with the outfield. It was something Bullpups coach Donnie Fagundes said he was “most proud of” to see and it’s what helped refocus Garcia, who was pitching in relief.
“My catcher behind me, Mia Hernandez, she focused me and relaxed me,” Garcia said. “I got out of my own head and I just focused on throwing strikes.”
Garcia got the next batter to ground out to get out of the inning and then shut down the Wolf Pack in the seventh inning to close the game. The freshman pitched two innings allowing two runs on one hit with three strikeouts. At the plate, she was 2-for-3 with an RBI, two runs and a walk.
Garcia hit a solo home run to center field in the second inning to give the Bullpups a 2-0 lead. It was her third homer of the season.
“I just tried to focus on making contact with the ball,” Garcia said after swinging at a bad second pitch during her at-bat. “My next pitch I fouled it off and I was like, ‘Ok I’m a little bit ahead of it,’ so I scooted back in the box a little bit so that I would still be on time and I got that pitch and the swing just happened.”
Hanford scored in the first on a delayed double steal and added their third run on an error at first during the third inning. Cruz scored both runs.
Arrysa Danell started the game in the circle and was her dominant self. She allowed one run on six hits with one strikeout in five solid innings. She faced the minimum through the first three innings and retired the side in order twice.
“My curveball was working and my drop ball,” Danell said.
She ran into trouble in the fifth inning when she gave up three consecutive two-out singles to allow a run. But with the tying runs on second and third, she got a strikeout to hold the Wolf Pack.
Danell also worked around a leadoff double and one-out single in the fourth. With runners on the corners she got a fly out and ground out. Ridgeview was 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position when Danell was pitching.
When it comes to getting on a roll, Danell said she doesn’t really realize it and added, “I just keep going.”
The Bullpups also played excellent defense in the early innings to keep the Wolf Pack off the bases. Cruz helped start a 6-4-3 double play in the second and Hernandez made a diving catch in foul territory during the fourth. Garcia also caught a line drive with her outstretched glove in the third inning.
Hanford will face No. 6 seed San Luis Obispo (13-8, 6-6 ML) next Tuesday at home at 4:30 p.m. San Luis Obispo won 7-0 over No. 11 seed Pioneer Valley in the first round and upset No. 3 seed Independence 5-2 in the quarterfinals.