VERSAILLES, Mo. — The California Pintos softball team's season came to a end after a 4-3 loss to the Calvary Lutheran Lions in the Class 2 District 9 Tournament semifinals.
California's season ends with a record of 18-5 on the year.
Head coach Steven Stock said the team had a positive season.
"A lot of good things, we accomplished some goals," Stock said. "But when you get to this point in the season, you (have) to execute, and defensively, we struggled with six errors. And it was too much to overcome. Offensively, we got a couple of times with the bases loaded, twice in the first three innings, and we were unable to get any runs. And when you do that, most games go the other way."
The Pintos had a chance to strike first in the bottom of the first inning, as Lauren Spillars started off the inning with a walk. It was followed by Lauren Hill reaching first on an error, and Camryn Schlup getting on base with an infield hit. With the bases loaded and no outs, Ella Percival hit a pitch back to the pitcher, who then threw it to third base for a double play. With Jenna Berendzen at the plate, the Pintos executed a double steal to give the team runners on second and third with two outs. However, the team could not score, as Berendzen struck out to end the inning.
Stock said the team just got unlucky with how the inning went.
"We hit a little line drive to the pitcher, and she of course caught it," Stock said. "Well, the base runners are coming off aggressively, and the worst person you can hit a little line drive to is probably the pitcher, and they turned it into a double play."
Calvary Lutheran scored first in the top of the second inning, as the Lions put a runner in scoring position thanks to a lead-off double and a bunt. The Lions scored on another double to make it 1-0. The Pintos escaped without giving up another run when Schlup struck out the final batter of the inning with a runner on third.
After a scoreless bottom of the second, Calvary Lutheran expanded its lead with a two-run inning to make it 3-0.
In the bottom of the third, the Pintos had a scoring opportunity with the bases loaded for the second time in the game. Spillars started the inning with a first pitch hit to center field. California found itself with two outs rather quickly, as Hill was unable to get on base and Spillars was thrown out trying to steal second base. Schlup singled to keep the inning alive, and Percival forced a walk on a full count to give the Pintos two runners on base. Berendzen singled to left field to load the bases, but California was unable to score after Mariah Mills struck out to end the inning.
Stock said the team was just unable to get a big hit at the right time when they had the bases loaded.
"That is part of softball, sometimes you hit some hard at the right time and it doesn't work, sometimes you don't hit them hard and it works," Stock said. "All we can do is ask our kids to be ready to play and play hard, and we were satisfied that they did that."
In the top of the fourth inning, Schlup got out of a jam as the Lions had two runners on second and first and one out. Schlup struck out the last two batters in a row to end the inning.
The Pintos got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, as Kaylena Riggs singled to start the inning. After back-to-back outs, the team had a runner on third and would score its first run after a single by Spillars to make it 3-1.
In the fifth inning, the Lions quickly got two runners on, thanks to an error and a walk. After a sacrifice bunt and another walk, the Lions had the bases loaded and one out. Schlup was able to get a strike out for out number two and then forced a ground out to end the inning.
The Pintos tied the game in their half of the inning as Schlup started off the inning with a double, Percival then hit a fly ball to right field that got away from the right fielder and allowed the Pintos to score to make it 3-2. Percival ended up on third base at the end of the play. One batter latter, Berendzen then tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Stock said the team was able to get the hits with runners on base.
"It really was the same situation we had in the first and third inning — it is just that we did not get the hits in the first couple of innings and in the fifth inning we did," Stock said.
Two costly errors in the top of the sixth inning would come back to hurt the Pintos. The inning started with another strikeout for Schlup, but the next batter hit a ball into left field that went off the left fielder's glove. The Lions took the lead for good after the next batter attempted a bunt that was picked up but the throw went high over first base and allowed the Lions to take a 4-3 lead.
Stock said the team was focused on its next at bats heading into the next inning.
"We did not even talk about (the errors), our focus was on we are coming up with our 2-3-4-5 hitters in the last inning, and we were simply (saying) somebody got on base early, and we will move you over and get you in, and let's get this thing tied up," Stock said. "But again, we were unable to do that."
Both the bottom of the sixth inning and the top of the seventh went quickly and the score remained the same.
In the last inning for the Pintos, the team quickly had two outs, but was able to get the tying run to second base. Unfortunately, the season ended after Berendzen hit a ground ball that was picked by the Lions' shortstop and made the throw to advance the Lions to the district championship game.
Stock said the Pintos were a pretty good softball team this year, but there are things the team can take away from its district loss.
"When you win 18 games, that is a nice season," Stock said. "But when you are playing teams that are pretty good or you are in close games, doing the little things and not making little mistakes can be the difference. There were four or five games this year where we made plays in close games and were able to pull them out. Unfortunately, we didn't in the last one."