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FEELIN’ BLUE

Sierra outlasts EU to reach winners- bracket semifinal

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FEELIN’ BLUE

Gianna Lenoci celebrates her second-inning run with Allie Walljasper (25) as Sierra takes an early lead against rival East Union in Thursday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV quarterfinal at Arnai...

Photos by WAYNE THALLANDER/


POSTED May 16, 2014 1:13 a.m.

STOCKTON — It’s no big secret that Allie Walljasper has carried the load for Sierra this season.

After flirting with a perfect game in the Timberwolves’ Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoff opener Thursday at Arnaiz Softball Complex, Walljasper got some much-needed help from her teammates in a heated quarterfinal matchup with city rival East Union, the tournament’s top-seeded club.

Taylor Moss and Devi Coglio were among those who came through in big spots for their tiring ace pitcher, as Sierra held on to top the Lancers 7-5 in the eight-inning nightcap. The Timberwolves (16-6) are once again on the doorstep of a section final after reaching the championship round the past three seasons and winning two of them.

“I want to get another section championship and to have all the underclassmen experience something like this,” the weary Walljasper said. “I’m feeling super excited right now and I’m just beyond proud of my team. This team wasn’t even supposed to come this far and we’re just coming together at the right time.”

After knocking off two league champions Thursday, Sierra gets to take on another tonight in Valley Oak League co-titlist Oakdale (22-5-1). The Mustangs have had Sierra’s number this year, as they claimed their two regular-season showdowns by 2-1 and 6-0 scores.

“It’s going to take the intensity that we showed at the end of this game and the intensity that we showed in the first game,” Sierra coach Nick Olmo said. “They need to just come out here knowing that we can finish this up. All of the teams left, we’re all 0-0 basically going into (today). That’s how we have to approach it.”

A fourth meeting is possible between the Manteca squads tonight or Saturday when a champion is crowned. East Union (22-3) must win four straight to capture its first section banner since 2003.

Sierra and East Union won their first-round contests in different ways.

Walljasper carried a perfect game into the sixth inning in a 3-0 victory over Sierra Valley Conference champion Cosumnes Oaks (19-9). The LSU-bound senior struck out 12, walked one and yielded a pair of hits.

Meanwhile, the Lancers came from behind to knock off upset-minded Pacheco (15-10) 4-2, rallying for all of their runs in the bottom of the fifth. Cherish sparked East Union with a two-out, two-run single to tie it, Jordan Vinson drove in the winning run with a hit and Michelle Castro doubled home the insurance score.

Game 2 was much more taxing for Walljasper while navigating through a potent East Union lineup. She tossed 152 pitches while giving up five earned runs on 10 hits and two walks.

“In the last couple of innings my fingers were starting to feel real sore and they’re still real raw right now,” Walljasper said. “I was starting to lose the grip but I just wanted to push through for the team.”

Sierra scratched across four runs in the top of the eighth to take a lead 7-3. Walljasper and Kendelle Messersmith drew bases-loaded walks in succession, and Moss clutched up for what ended up being two huge insurance RBIs with a single to right. Sierra saw five different pitchers on Thursday and Moss got hits off four of them, finishing 6 for 9 with four RBIs. Coglio reached four times in the East Union game, going 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I just didn’t want to let my team down,” Moss said of her key knock in the extra frame.

East Union didn’t go down without a fight in the third installment of the Lancer-Timberwolf rivalry this season. The two teams split their VOL series with one-run wins.

In the bottom of the eighth, Deja Guzman clobbered a run-scoring double to inch East Union closer, and she was driven in by Destiny Flores’ single up the middle. The Lancers had runners in scoring position with one out and the winning run at the plate but could not finish the job.

East Union stranded eight runners in scoring position all game, five of them in the last four innings.

“It was a lot of fun and both teams were really into it, but losing the way we did was a bitter pill because we should have won that game,” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “We should have scored the winning run when we had the chance.”

East Union has reason to feel confident going into tonight’s consolation-bracket contest with Ceres (21-5). The Lancers were able to get timely hits against the tournament’s two top pitchers. They first faced Pacheco standout Gia Rodoni, striking out just six times while getting base runners on in all but one inning.

“We swung the bats,” Goulart said. “I don’t know what we ended up with in the totals but we had a lot of hits and not a whole lot of strikeouts.”

East Union also had a sterling debut from freshman pitcher Delaney Pamplin, who hadn’t pitched at the varsity level prior to Thursday. She relieved usual starter Alexis Erich — who gave up two runs on seven hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings — in the Pacheco game and retired all eight batters she faced. With Erich nursing a sore hand, Pamplin also got the start against Sierra and pitched five innings. Fellow call-up Mikayla Bongi and Castro also saw time in the circle.

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