SAN PEDRO — One by one, the Bellarmine-Jefferson softball team strolled to the plate brimming with confidence. With that certainty came the ability to find the openings throughout the field.
The Guards perfected it, scoring eight runs in the second inning en route to an easy 16-0 road victory against Rolling Hills Prep on Tuesday afternoon in a CIF Southern Section Division VII semifinal contest at the San Pedro Softball Complex, advancing to its second consecutive title game in the process.
Second-seeded Bellarmine-Jefferson (23-5-2) will now meet top-seeded and defending champion Pomona Catholic in the championship game on Friday or Saturday at a time to be determined at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine.
"We go out there and prepare to play anybody, anyway," said first-year Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo, whose team will face a Pomona Catholic squad that beat Mesa Grande, 24-0, and, like Bell-Jeff is yet to allow a run in the playoffs. "We'll go out there and do anything to get runs across.
"We don't have a lot of team speed, but we can play small ball or long ball. It doesn't matter. Now, we are going back to the championship game and will look at the big picture."
Bell-Jeff, which won the Santa Cruz League championship, stuck to recording singles and doubles during the second inning to build an 8-0 advantage against the third-seeded Huskies (17-2). Bell-Jeff sent 12 batters to the plate, collecting seven hits and a pair of walks.
The Guards, who have outscored their four playoff foes by a 56-0 margin, took a 1-0 lead when Priscilla Panizo hit into a fielder's choice to bring home Jaylen Watson. Samantha Casarez and Karina Hernandez followed with back-to-back run-scoring singles to make it 3-0. Mia Acosta walked with the bases loaded to extend the lead to 4-0 before Sofia Palacios drove a single to left to make it 5-0.
Watson made it 6-0 with a sacrifice fly before Cristina Colon completed the scoring output in the frame with a two-run double.
Colon paced the Guards with four hits — two doubles, one triple and one single — in her first game back after being academically ineligible.
"It was so great to get back. I've been waiting so long to be able to hit in a game," said Colon, who reached base five times. "I really missed it so much and it was very tough for me to be out, especially when the team was playing so [well]. I felt I was really supposed to be her today to do what I did."
Acosta (13-2) said she appreciated the early run support.
"It was good to get all of those runs," said Acosta, a transfer from Birmingham High who yielded three hits and struck out five in twirling a shutout. "I didn't know much [about Rolling Hills Prep], so I had to go back out there and keep throwing strikes and keep my momentum going.
"You never know if they would come back and I had to keep hitting my spots."
Acosta got 10 groundball outs and maintained her scoreless streak during the postseason.
Bell-Jeff scored three runs in the sixth to make it 11-0. The first run came on a force out by Watson before Colon hit a two-run triple to extend the lead to 11-0.
Some sloppy defense by the Huskies played a large role in the Guards scoring five runs in the seventh. Rolling Hills Prep made three errors in the inning.
A pair of errors by the Rolling Hills Prep shortstop made it 13-0 and Jessica Pereyra recorded a squeeze bunt that drove in a run to make it 14-0. A two-run triple by Acosta closed out the scoring.
Acosta and Hernandez finished with two hits apiece for the Guards.
"They were by far the better team," said Rolling Hills Prep Coach Ben Pasco, who led the Huskies to the Coastal League title. "They are by far the best team we've played and we knew we'd have our hands full.
"They have a team that's got 10-11 good players."