Salinas no match for Lady ‘Balers

Pinch-runner Mari Vallejo slides in before the throw to score for the 'Balers Tuesday afternoon against Salinas.

San Benito opens TCAL with 8-0 victory against visiting
When your team compiles a 61-6 record over the course of two seasons, leading to two straight Central Coast Section titles, you tend to speak loudly and carry a big stick.

But after a difficult 2-3 run at the elite Nike Faster to First Classic in Huntington Beach last weekend, and the late start to the season after the girls basketball team’s deep run into the NorCal playoffs, the San Benito softball team is looking to get some of that swagger back.

With manager Scott Smith putting an added importance on the first four games of the league season, the Lady ‘Balers responded in resounding fashion Tuesday as they defeated visiting Salinas 8-0 in the Tri-County Athletic League opener in Hollister.

“I think it kind of put a little doubt in our mind,” said Smith of the season’s start. “I think we’ll get our swagger back that we’re one of the top teams and that teams have to come and beat us.”

Starting pitcher Marisa Ibarra, having just pitched in all five games in Huntington Beach, kept the Cowboys off balance for the majority of the game, allowing just two hits while striking out 10 in the process.

Up against another top pitcher in the TCAL, Salinas’ Samantha Rodriguez, the Lady ‘Balers punched eight hits in the game, with Lindsey Clay going 2-for-2 with a two-RBI triple. Leadoff hitter JC Clayton had a 2-for-3 day with a pair of runs scored for San Benito, which improves to 1-0 in the TCAL, 4-3 overall.

The Lady ‘Balers plated all their runs in the first two innings, jumping on Salinas’ Rodriguez early in the game.

In the bottom half of the first, San Benito scored four times on just one hit – Clay’s triple that found the gap in left-center field. The Lady ‘Balers capitalized on a hit-batsman, a base on balls and two Salinas errors to take a 4-0 lead after one complete inning.

Bre Fata’s line-drive off the second baseman’s glove caused the second error of the inning, as the frozen rope darted into right field, scoring Clay from third base.

“That was huge for us,” Smith said. “That really took a lot of pressure off the rest of the lineup.”

In the second, Jessica Vest led off with a walk and Clayton singled her over before Rachel Maheu sac bunted both runners into scoring position.

With runners on second and third, Elena Fata hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Vest from third, while Lizzy Gatto connected on a single to left field that scored Clayton.

Elena’s cousin, Bre, would later hit a two-RBI single up the middle to make it 8-0 San Benito.

Already with an eight-run cushion, Ibarra cruised through Salinas’ lineup. She did get into a little trouble in the sixth, when Cassandra Medina singled to right and Chelsea Williams followed by drawing a walk. But after Kat Norman bunted both runners into scoring position, San Benito turned a double play.

First baseman Bri Romero fielded a ground out, and then threw to second where Elena Fata supplied the tag on a diving Williams to end the threat.

Seeking to get that swagger back, San Benito will open the Charlie Miguel Invitational Tournament on Friday against Carlmont, which they defeated 2-1 in last season’s Central Coast Section final.

The 28-team tournament will be held in Sunnyvale at the Twin Creeks Sports Complex. First pitch is at 8 p.m.

SAL 000 000 0 – 0 2 2

SB 440 000 X – 8 8 1

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