Taft College needs to play well this week in their final three Central Valley Conference softball games, and get a little help from others.
That is the assessment of head coach Stefanie Walsh after her team used a six-run inning last Thursday to overtake College of the Sequoias, 13-9, in a game that lifted TC’s league record to 9-6 and took some of the sting out of a doubleheader loss to Reedley two days earlier.
“Mathematically, we are still in the playoff picture, but we need a little help,” Walsh said.
“It would have been much better, of course, if we had split with Reedley, but that didn’t happen.”
Just three games remain in the regular season, and all of them are crucial if the Cougars harbor any hope of making the playoffs.
“We need to do well this week,” Walsh said.
That means coming up with a sterling effort against CVC pacesetter Fresno City College (12-1) in this afternoon’s doubleheader in Fresno and winning the regular season finale against winless West Hills Thursday at home.
Fresno, ranked sixth in northern California and 10th in the state, manhandled the Cougars 15-7 when the teams played in Fresno on March 14.
“Fresno is a team that continues to find a way to win close games,” Walsh said. “We have to be in the right mindset. We need to go out there and just play the kind of softball we did against COS.”
The Cougars are looking to pull off an upset against a team that has won 12 consecutive games since a 5-1 loss to Sequoias in the conference opener.
Fresno finishes the regular season April 23 when the Rams travel to Reedley for a doubleheader. Reedley is in second place with a 10-5 conference record after knocking the Cougars out of the No. 2 spot last Tuesday.
The Tigers are the hardest hitting team in the conference with 33 homeruns. They hit four of those against the Cougars on Tuesday, and Walsh is hoping they can do something similar against the Rams.
Against Sequoias, the best hitting team in the conference with a .373 batting average, the Cougars were up to the task.
COS led 4-3 after three innings before TC scored four times in the third.
The Tigers answered with four of their own in the fourth and added a run in the fifth for a 9-7 lead.
That’s when the Cougars erupted for six in the home half of the fifth, and relief pitcher Cheyenne Emerson silenced the COS bats in the final two innings.
Page 2 of 2 - “I liked the way we ended the game,” Walsh said. “We did a good job of focusing. We finished well.”
TC combined six hits – all singles – with two walks and some alert base running.
Brooklyn Amador got the Cougars off to a good start by slugging a two-run homer in the first inning, driving in Stephanie Keith, who had singled.
The Cougars put up four runs in the third.
Keith got it going with a single, Amador walked, and Kelina Naka was safe on an error to load the bases. After a force-out at the plate Amador scored with some heads-up base running. Ashley McKeown drove a two-run single up the middle. Jessica Neher singled and Tuiai Elisara walked to load the bases for Peyton Buen’s RBI single.
Getting hits for the Cougars in the big inning were Chelsea Eli-Kido, Buen, Keith, Amador, Emerson and Tuiai Elisara.