GROSS PARK — Losing may not always be a bad thing.
Back on April 30, the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team dropped an 8-4 nonleague decision on the road at Apple Valley.
"The best thing that could've happened to us was to taste the defeat," Bell-Jeff coach John Castadena said.
Following the loss, the calculating coach made adjustments to will out the best in his team.
The players responded.
After the four-run defeat at Apple Valley, the Guards reeled off five wins in a row, outscoring their opponents, 82-13.
Thursday brought the latest landslide victory, as Bell-Jeff bested Crossroads High, 18-3, in a CIF Southern Section Division VII quarterfinal round contest at Gross Park.
With the win, the Guards (21-5) advanced to play Rolling Hills Prep (15-2) in a 3:15 p.m. semifinal game Tuesday at home.
Crossroads went up, 2-0, in the top of the second inning, but thereafter it was all Bell-Jeff, which responded with a combined 12 runs posted during the second and third innings.
"Sometimes you need a wake-up call," Castadena explained. "They came out and smacked us in the mouth and we appreciated that. We got right back up and back into the game."
The Guards added four runs in the fifth inning and two in the sixth to take a commanding advantage.
During a rally in the third inning, freshman center fielder Jaylen Watson broke the game open when she crushed a three-run home run to left field.
"It was a beautiful pitch," Watson said. "I saw it and just swung."
After that commanding swing, Bell-Jeff owned a 9-2 advantage.
Watson added a single later, going two for three with three runs batted in and two runs scored.
"With Jaylen, we always expect something spectacular, but we try to preach, 'Be productive, not spectacular,'" Castadena said.
The Guards accumulated 18 hits and benefited from timely bunting, aggressive base running and unpredictable offense.
"We know what they expect — big bats," Castadena said. " Our goal is to put the pressure on the defense and keep them guessing. You have to be more than one-dimensional. That's why we practice and preach the little things. We needed them today to get the engine cranking."
Watson too noticed how the focus on doing the little things added up to the lopsided victory.
"We are an aggressive team," she said. "We just need base runners. It's not always about big hits. Small ball is good too."
Freshman Cristina Colon hit a two-run home run to right-center field for Bell-Jeff in the bottom of the sixth inning. Colon went three for five, including a single, a double, two RBI and two runs scored.
Colon bats immediately after Watson in Bell-Jeff's lineup, which provides a formidable one-two punch for opposing pitchers to face.
"Tina's a really good hitter," Watson said. "I'd be kinda scared. I'm usually sacred when I'm on base because she's a lefty and I don't want to get hit with the ball."
Bell-Jeff freshman Krystal Ordonez finished four for five with three singles, a triple, five RBI and a run scored.
Junior pitcher Jackie Pons tossed six innings for the Guards, giving up three runs, four hits, three walks, and striking out six.
Freshman pitcher Amanda Maalouf appeared in the seventh, retiring the side, sending Bell-Jeff into the semifinals.