Megan Smith scores game’s only run on a Mt. Pleasant error;
Monte Vista next
The ‘Balers first round CCS Division I playoff game against Mt. Pleasant wasn’t the prettiest, but it was good enough.

A Mt. Pleasant error in the second inning allowed San Benito to score its only run of the game. The ‘Balers held on to the one run lead and kept the Cardinals scoreless for the eventual 1-0 win.

“We feel better when we knock in the runs instead,” said San Benito head coach Scott Smith. “(The run) was a gift. They made an error and we scored … Fortunately, we survived.”

In the bottom of the second, Megan Smith squeezed a double out of a hit to short left field. After ‘Baler pitcher Dani Hernandez grounded out, Ari Romero sent a grounder to Mt. Pleasant shortstop Christina Botkins, who overthrew the ball to first. Smith took advantage of the error and scored from second. Romero eventually got to third base, but the ‘Balers (19-7-1) never mustered a hit to drive her home.

“We left a couple runners at third base and actually had our 3, 4, 5 hitters up and didn’t get it done,” Smith said.

Despite committing some early errors – the ‘Balers committed two more errors than the Cardinals for the game – San Benito’s defense improved as the game continued. Hernandez was also solid on the mound, earning the complete game shutout and allowing just one hit while striking out five batters. Her record improved to 18-7.

In the seventh inning, San Benito, the home team, had to keep the Cardinals scoreless to preserve the win. A shot to center field that jumped off the bat of Mt. Pleasant’s Nerissa Marichalar provided a momentary scare, but ‘Balers center fielder Nicole Burns made a key sliding catch for the second out of the inning.

“She got a great jump on the ball,” Smith said. “I was nervous that if she dove for it and it got by her, it was a home run. But it was a great play.”

“(During the game) we were talking about just staying focused,” Smith added. “And we’ve learned in the past that when we get a lead, we tend to relax a little and those kinds of plays pay us back.”

The No. 7 ‘Balers will take on No. 2 seed Monta Vista (22-6), which had a first-round bye, on Saturday. Time and location have yet to be announced.

Smith said his team’s success Saturday will greatly depend on Hernandez.

“In other games, we had kind of gotten nervous in the last inning so this was a good game for us tonight,” Hernandez said. “We just have to go into the (next) game with a lot of confidence and have fun because, you know, it could be our last.”

In addition to the double, Smith also tripled for the ‘Balers. Burns (single), Kristen Archuletta (single) and Julie Broyer (bunt single) also added hits for the ‘Balers.