BURBANK —With a common goal in mind and hot bats in hand, the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team delivered another dominant performance Tuesday.
In a CIF Southern Section Division VII second-round playoff game at Bloomington Christian, the Guards racked up an eye-opening 27 hits en route to a 24-3 drubbing of the Ravens.
"We hit, and that's definitely our main staple," Bell-Jeff Coach John Castadena said.
With the win, the Guards advanced to play Crossroads High at 3:15 p.m. Thursday at home.
"Our goal was definitely to win a CIF championship," Castadena said. "They've bought in and understand the common goal. They're on a mission."
Senior third baseman Maddy Gianoli led Bell-Jeff, going five for six, including three singles, a double, triple and four runs batted in.
"She's really coming out," Castadena said of Gianoli. "She's playing with no weight on her shoulders. She's very aggressive. She sets the tone and they all follow suit."
Bell-Jeff (20-5) scored nine runs in the first inning, but Bloomington Christian (19-6) responded with three runs in the second. However, from there, the Guards tallied 15 unanswered runs, punching their ticket into the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
Freshman center fielder Jaylen Watson belted a three-run home run to center field in the fourth inning.
"That thing was a shot," Castadena said.
Watson later added a pair of sacrifice flies and finished the game with five RBI.
Bell-Jeff shortstop Monique Landini went three for four with a double and four RBI.
Pitcher Amanda Maalouf earned the win for the Guards, throwing a complete game, giving up six hits and striking out seven.
The second inning was the only source of trouble for Maalouf, who regrouped thereafter, shutting down Bloomington Christian.
"It doesn't frazzle her one bit, especially being a freshman," Castadena said. "She understands she has a great defense behind her and she has a great hitting team. We didn't expect to shut them out. She battled all seven innings."
Bell-Jeff turned two inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth, halting any hopes of a comeback by the Ravens.
Castadena credited Bell-Jeff's camaraderie, discipline and focus as primary strengths moving forward in the playoffs.
"Regardless of what was going on, they're very even-keeled," he said. "We have a group of freshmen who had to gel with a group of seniors. [The seniors] know they need those freshmen to get their goal."
The Guards' next match-up against Crossroads will be the first meeting between the two teams this season.
"We don't take anybody lightly," Castadena says. "It is the playoffs and anything can happen. We like our chances. It's one and you're done. I don't think these girls are done yet."