SAN PEDRO — It has been more than seven weeks since the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team has been involved in a close, competitive game.
The Guards, seeded second in the CIF Southern Section Division VII playoffs, enjoyed another one-sided result in a semifinal game Tuesday against No. 3 Rolling Hills Prep at the San Pedro Softball Complex. Bell-Jeff relied on a steady, three-hit pitching performance from sophomore Mia Acosta and hammered out 12 hits to earn a convincing 16-0 victory.
The Guards easily dispatched all their opponents in securing the Santa Cruz League championship this season, outscoring their foes, 123-8. Bell-Jeff has also experienced little resistance in the playoffs, besting opponents, 56-0, in winning four games.
With the win, the Guards (23-5-2) earn a spot in the Division VII championship game for the second straight season. Bell-Jeff will take on Pomona Catholic either Friday or Saturday at a time to be determined at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine.
The Bell-Jeff players and coaches are hoping that a lack of competition late in the season doesn't prove detrimental in the team's quest to win a first-ever CIF championship.
"That's why we play in some competitive tournaments and we play against schools that are bigger than us, so we can get that competition against good teams," said Bell-Jeff first-year Coach Florencio Galindo, whose squad took part in the Spring Jamboree in Las Vegas, the Redondo Union Tournament and the Lincoln Tournament. "We knew we might not get a lot of competition in our league, so we wanted to make sure we knew what it is like to go up against tougher teams."
The Guards have won 10 straight games, and the last time the team was pushed in a contest came April 7 in a 3-1 loss to Torrance in the Spring Jamboree tourney.
Bell-Jeff will likely get the competition it has lacked against No. 1 Pomona Catholic, the defending champion. The Pacers (26-7) defeated Mesa Grande Academy, 24-0, in their semifinal Tuesday. Pomona Catholic has not allowed a run in the postseason, either, crushing opponents, 103-0.
In last year's title game, Pomona Catholic held on for a 7-6 win against the Guards.
Throughout the season, the Guards have enjoyed some victories or have been competitive with teams from higher divisions. Along with tying Harvard-Westlake, 8-8, and Moorpark, 7-7, the team also has wins against Sylmar, 12-4, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 1-0, and Fremont, 11-2. Bell-Jeff also lost to Long Beach Millikan, 2-1, and Los Altos, 6-3.
Bell-Jeff sophomore Tiffany Galindo said the team isn't worried about hot having been involved in any close games in the playoffs, as it pertains to the title game.
"I think we will still be able to come through in the championship," she said. "We have really good hitters, and that is what is going to help us to be able to win it."
Junior Monique Landini agreed with her teammate.
"The thing we really have to worry about is the pitching we will probably have to face," Landini said. "We might not have faced pitchers who were really fast. But in the championship we will probably face a fast pitcher. But we're going to do it."
In the championship game, the Guards will get the opportunity to prove that they haven't been too tough for their own good in the past few weeks.
"Despite not having the competition lately, I think the girls are ready," Galendo said. "They have worked very hard to get back to the championship game and it's been a long journey. We want to accomplish this year what we didn't do last year."