GROSS PARK — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team was faced with an unfamiliar situation when it showed up Thursday for an opening playoff game at its home field at Gross Park.
Its opponent, visiting North County Christian, arrived at the park early from its long ride from Atascadero and took up residence in the first-base dugout.
The only problem was that the Guards use the first-base dugout as their home side.
Instead of making their guests move, and forsaking any possible superstition ramifications, Bell-Jeff Coach John Castaneda moved his squad to the third-base dugout.
The switch didn’t seem to bother the Guards much, as they overcame a slow start to knock off the Crusaders, 18-7, in a first-round CIF Southern Section Division VII game.
“I didn’t want to have to make them move,” Castaneda said about North County Christian. “It was just something a little different. Really, I don’t think it affected the girls that much.”
Only a few times did some of the Guards’ batters, who had earned walks, throw their bat in the direction of the wrong dugout.
The win puts the Guards into a second-round game Tuesday against host Academy of Academic Excellence in Apple Valley. The Knights (17-6), who placed second in the Agape League, defeated Southlands Christian, 17-0, in a first-round game Thursday.
Bell-Jeff (15-4) — which won a Santa Cruz League championship — again suffered through a self-destructive trend that had plagued it throughout the season.
The Guards fell behind the Crusaders (13-5 and third place from the Coast Valley League), 3-0, in the second inning.
“That is something we definitely have to work on,” Castaneda said. “It is something that has been a problem for us and it’s something that we need to take care of. We’re not going to get away with that against the better teams in the playoffs.”
The Guards were able to erase the deficit with four runs in their half of the second inning. Katelyn Villareal had a run-scoring triple and Ashley Ketchum drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in the inning.
After North Valley Christian tied the score at 4 with a run in the top of the third, Bell-Jeff broke the game open in the bottom of the inning.
The Guards sent 10 players to the plate and scored five runs. Villareal, Ketchum and Juliana D’agostaro had RBI-singles in the frame.
Bell-Jeff flexed its muscle in the fifth inning as well, pushing across seven runs on seven hits. The hits included a two-run home run by Mari Rosa, a three-RBI triple by Ketchum and a run-scoring triple by Jacklyn Pons.
“I was happy with the way we hit the ball,” Castadena said. “We have some good hitters on this team. It just sometimes takes them a little time to figure out the pitcher. But once they do, things go well for us.”
Ketchum led the Bell-Jeff offense that went down in order in just the first and sixth innings. Ketchum, a sophomore left fielder, went two for five with a triple and five RBI.
Villareal was three for five with a triple, three RBI and three runs scored.