GLENDALE — Following three straight trips to the CIF Southern Section Division VI final and a championship victory last season, Bellarmine-Jefferson High's softball team isn't new to the ups and downs of the playoffs.
Hence, though the Guards were far from outstanding on Thursday afternoon, it mattered not, as they defeated Alverno, 5-2, in the second round at the Glendale Sports Complex to move on to Saturday's quarterfinals.
"Right now, a win is a win, I don't care how we do it," said Guards Coach Florencio Galindo, whose team used a 4-0 lead in the third to weather three errors and being held hitless over the last four innings. "We're not gonna get style points."
Bell-Jeff (15-4-2), the Santa Cruz League champion, got a complete game from senior pitcher Mia Acosta, who allowed five hits, one walk and struck out nine to hold off Alverno (14-6), the Horizon League titlist.
"A win is a win, but still, now we know we can't take any teams lightly," said Acosta, who also scored a pair of runs. "There's teams that I'm sure are gonna be tougher."
Next up is St. Monica Catholic, which defeated Santa Paula, on Thursday. However, Bell-Jeff's graduation is Saturday, so Galindo is hoping St. Monica will agree to an earlier start time to the game.
With rain coming down at times throughout the early innings, Thursday's game got going a few minutes early, as well, as did the Bell-Jeff offense.
Senior leadoff batter Tiffany Galindo (two runs) led off the game with the first of seven Bell-Jeff hits on the day. Acosta later singled in front of a single by senior Cristina Colon that plated Galindo for a 1-0 lead. Senior Sofia Palacios, who had two hits and two runs batted in, then singled in Acosta for a 2-0 advantage.
Senior Samantha Casarez then led off the third inning with an inside-the-park home run to left-center field for a 3-0 cushion. Acosta, who reached on two-base outfield error, would come around for a 4-0 lead off a Palacios single.
Following Palacios' single with no outs, Alverno brought in sophomore Katie Taix and the game immediately changed.
"It was a big step up," Acosta said. "She was an overall good pitcher, I have to say; she struck me out twice."
In all, Taix had seven strikeouts and threw five no-hit innings.
She was also a centerpiece in Alverno's one offensive surge, as she was part of a string of three straight one-out singles in the bottom of the third. The third, via Cameron Martinez, plated Emily Yekikian before Taix scored on the play when an errant throw trying to get Martinez advancing to second went into the outfield.
"I was nervous the whole game, but I believe in my team," Acosta said. "[Our playoff experience] does [help us]. But it also makes us 10 times more nervous because we have a target on our backs."
Acosta quelled the threat with a pair of ground outs and Bell-Jeff seized the momentum back, though a more accurate description might have been that Alverno gave it back. Galindo sent a shot to center field that was headed for a glove, but the center fielder badly misplayed it and Galindo galloped around the bases for a 5-2 lead.
Aside from another error in the sixth, Bell-Jeff was retired in order thereafter.
Alverno had one last good opportunity when a pair of Jaguars reached base with one out in the bottom of the sixth on back-to-back Guards errors. But Acosta buckled down and expunged the threat with a pair of ground outs.
Said Florencio Galindo: "These girls just find a way to win."
Follow Grant Gordon on Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon.