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Sierra struggles against EU’s junkballer

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Sierra shortstop Daylynn Penner reaches for the pickoff throw while East Union's Kourtni McCall slides to second for a steal in the fifth inning.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED April 17, 2010 2:38 a.m.
Sierra High softball ace Gabby Hawkins has given East Union fits over the past two years, even outdueling four-time Bulletin All-Area MVP Erin Arevalo, now a starter for the University of Georgia, in a 3-2 upset win in 2008.

But on Friday, Hawkins was outshined by a player who wasn’t projected to log as many innings this season for EU as she has in recent weeks.

 Backed by two sun-aided multiple-base hits that led to early run-scoring rallies and a solid defensive effort, Lancer senior Jackie Ketner anchored her team’s big 5-1 victory at Northgate Softball Complex to keep it in a first-place tie with Oakdale in the Valley Oak League.

Oakdale defeated Ceres 5-1 Friday to keep its share of the top spot. Ceres dealt East Union (6-1, 14-4 overall) its only loss Wednesday, 5-2.

Ketner’s emergence has resulted in a domino effect that has infielders playing at their preferred positions. Kourtni McCall, the team’s ace last year, now gets to play shortstop, which moves freshman Laura Gann to third base and Cassie Waggy from third to first while keeping Cherie DeJesus at second base.

“Sometimes you get real lucky,” EU coach Brian Goulart said. “We thought that this season that McCall was going to be our ace because she pitched in all of our big games last year, while Jackie pitched just a few innings.

“You just have to tip your hat to Jackie and say ‘Wow.’ She’s come out of nowhere and made our team so much better. Jackie’s been our missing link.”

Ketner by her own admission is no fireballer. She struck out just two batters Friday and yielded an unearned run, six hits and a walk. But she forced 15 groundball outs and fielded seven of them herself.

 “I don’t throw the ball hard; I don’t try to blow them away,” Ketner said. “What I do is try to throw them junk so that they hit ground balls to my teammates.

“I know my teammates will back me up defensively. I’m not worried about teams hitting the ball. I’m not there for the glory of the strikeouts; I’m there for the glory of the team.”

Ketner was given a shot of confidence early with the offense spotting her a 3-0 lead by the fourth inning.

Brittany LaMar (2 for 3) led off the second with a sun-aided triple and scored on an error.

In the third, Jillian Goulart and McCall (2 for 3, two runs) led off with back-to-back bunt singles, and Waggy sent a two-bag bomb to left for a run. LaMar capped it off with an RBI groundout.

DeJesus knocked in McCall in the fifth on a sacrifice bunt, and Jessica Lavoie (2 for 3) plated the final run in the sixth after doubling off the left-field fence and racing home on a grounder from Gann.

East Union managed eight hits off of Hawkins, but only three of them left the infield. Hawkins, the Bulletin’s 2009 MVP, did strike out seven.

“Gabby has shut us down over the years, so that was the first time she got hit hard by our team,” coach Goulart said. “I’m very pleased with our approach.

“We have three girls who run well so they’re always a threat on infield groundballs and bunts. That makes us dangerous, because they have to defend us.”

Alysia Atkins scored the only run for Sierra (4-3, 10-7) in the fifth after legging out a double.

The Timberwolves had chances to score more, leaving at least one base runner stranded in every inning but the second. In the third, Sierra had runners on the corners with two outs but struck out on its final at-bat of the frame.

“We always had runners, we just couldn’t finish,” Sierra coach Nick Olmo said. “And that’s what I’ve been on them all season about — finishing. They’re an inexperienced group. They need to learn to set nerves aside when they get up to bat, and they have to learn to finish and move the (base runners) along on situational bunts and things like that.”

Both teams will wrap up the first half of league play Monday, with EU heading to Weston Ranch and Sierra facing its other crosstown rival, Manteca, on the road.
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