BURBANK — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division VII playoffs with an all too familiar formula that brought it plenty of success in the regular season as well.
Fueled by its unrelenting offense, and complemented well by good pitching and solid defense, the Guards had little trouble getting past Public Safety Academy, 10-1, in their playoff opener at McCambridge Park Saturday afternoon.
And both aspects of the game were represented well for a Bell-Jeff team that has won 14 of its last 15 games.
After surrendering a single run in the top of the first inning, Guards starting pitcher Jackie Pons threw a three-hit complete game, while clean-up hitter Jaylen Watson put together four hits and three runs batted in to set the tone against the Lady Phoenix.
"With Jackie, we want her to keep the ball down low and let the defense do their job, and we couldn't have scripted it any better," said Bell-Jeff Coach John Castaneda, who coached the Guards (19-5) to their second straight Santa Cruz League title this season, leading to a No. 2 playoff seeding. "We didn't hit as well as we have, but there are certain factors that I'll gladly take."
Castaneda referred to Public Safety Academy committing three errors in the bottom of the first inning, which led to the game-tying score and Watson's two-run single that plated Samantha Casarez and Monique Landini to extend Bell-Jeff's lead to 3-1.
The Guards would go on to score three more, and give their pitcher a comfortable lead going into the second inning — a staple of the team all season.
Watson's hit would be the only hit of the inning for the Guards, despite the six spot. In addition to the fielding mishaps, the Lady Phoenix walked three batters — all with the bases loaded.
Pons and the Bell-Jeff defense took over from there, allowing a runner past first base in only the first and third innings. The junior hurler struck out six batters, walking just three.
The Guards' offense eventually picked up to the tune of nine hits for the game. Cristina Colon and Amanda Maalouf hit a double and single, respectively, to score two more in the second. Then in the third, Watson hit her second double of the game to score Landini.
"They're a very good hitting team, and we killed ourselves with errors," said Lady Phoenix Coach Rick Guiterez, who saw his squad commit six errors. "And I give their defense credit for being on top of every ball we hit."
A sacrifice fly off the bat of leadoff hitter Maddy Gianoli in the fourth inning put an end to the scoring, as she picked up Stephanie Linares.
"She was just there, and I was just waiting on it," said Watson of her success against Lady Phoenix starting pitcher Macey Bower. "Everybody is playing really well. Our team is stacked."
The Guards will travel to Fontana to take on Bloomington Christian Tuesday. The Ravens (19-5) hail from the Victory League, where they finished second with a 10-2 mark. Overall, they have won seven of the last eight.
"We just take it one game a time and one pitch at a time, so it doesn't really matter who we play," Castaneda said.