SUN VALLEY — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball coaches wanted to see how the team would fair against tougher competition this season.
So, they ramped up the Guards' schedule, as the team will take on larger schools and teams from higher divisions.
Bell-Jeff got the chance to see how it would do against one of those teams when it faced Village Christian in a nonleague game Monday.
The Crusaders are ranked No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division IV and are coming off a season in which they advanced to the Division V semifinals. In addition, Village Christian boasts senior starting pitcher Emily Seidel, a Burbank resident and All-CIF standout that has signed with the University of Nevada Reno.
The Guards proved they are definitely worthy, as Bell-Jeff scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to earn a 5-4 victory at Village Christian.
"We are just thankful that teams like this are willing to play against us," Bell-Jeff Coach John Castaneda said. "Our goal is just to get better, and the only way you do that is against tougher competition. We want to play these types of games so when we get to the playoffs we'll have the experience."
Bell-Jeff (2-0) was taking on a Village Christian (1-2) team that is a lot different from last year's version. Fielding a group that includes a crop of young players, the Crusaders are also battling injuries.
"We are young and we have players who just don't have a lot of experience," Village Christian Coach Mike Delaney said. "But hopefully we were able to learn some things from this game, and I think there are some things we can take out of it."
Trailing, 4-3, the Guards made a push in the seventh inning. Freshman Krystal Ordonez led off the inning with an infield base hit and promptly stole second. Maddy Gianoli was able to reach base on a throwing error, scoring Ordonez.
After Seidel was able to retire the next two batters, freshman cleanup hitter, Jaylen Watson, stepped to the plate. Watson swung at the first pitch she saw, rocketing a shot into deep left-center field, easily scoring Gianoli with the winning run.
"I was a little bit nervous," Watson said. "But I was really excited when I was able to hit the ball."
Watson was two for four with two doubles and two runs batted in. Teammate Cristina Colon was two for four with a double and a run scored and Samantha Casarez was two for four with a double and a run scored.
The Guards received a solid performance from freshman pitcher Amanda Malouf, who went the distance, striking out six and allowing nine hits.
Seidel struggled at times on the circle. On offense, she was one for three with a triple, a walk, an RBI and a run scored. Samantha Pyros was three for four with an RBI and Janelle Rodda was two for four with an RBI.
The Crusaders took a 2-0 lead with runs in the first inning. Bell-Jeff tied the score with two runs of its own in the third. The Guards went up, 3-2, before Village Christian took a 4-3 advantage with two runs in the fifth.