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Despite being one win short of wrapping up a third-straight Tri-County Athletic League title, the Balers softball team’s late-season struggles again reared its head Thursday against Notre Dame.

The Balers lost their second league — and third overall — game of the year, falling to the Spirits in a 5-1 decision. All three losses have come in San Benito’s last 11 games.

“I don’t really know what it is,” manager Scott Smith said. “We usually go into the playoffs on a 12-game winning streak. That’s not going to happen this year.”

What’s most alarming for Smith is San Benito’s five errors — all leading to the Notre Dame runs — and the Balers one run against the Sprits’ Elizabeth Ray.

“We scored 18 runs off them before,” Smith said. “Thursday we got one hit.”

That hit came from the bat of Kim Sparrer in the first inning. After two stolen bases, the Balers scored their only run and took a 1-0 lead. That lasted until the top of the third inning, when Notre Dame responded with two runs.

The Spirits added three more in the fifth inning.

“We were a different team,” Smith said. “I told the team after that I couldn’t put my finger on one thing. We just didn’t play well. And that’s on me.”

Smith challenged the team to be better the rest of the way, he said.

“I told them that it took us 10 years to build the reputation that we have,” he said. “They inherited that reputation and it’s up to them to keep it.”

With a win over Alisal on Tuesday or Alvarez on Thursday, San Benito will clinch the TCAL championship entering the CCS playoffs.

San Benito, however, did beat Monta Vista 14-1 Monday in a five-inning shortened game.

San Benito starter Megan Sabbatini finished with 11 strikeouts with only four hits.

The Balers never trailed in the game striking for four runs in the first inning, one run in the second, four in the third and five in the fourth inning.

The Balers pounded out 12 hits with their 14 runs.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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