BURBANK — With a Santa Cruz League title wrapped up and senior day on the calendar, Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball Coach Florencio Galindo decided to turn to senior Karina Hernandez as his starting pitcher again St. Genevieve on Tuesday.
It turned out to be the right call.
"She's been pitching whenever we need her," Galindo said. "What a way for her to go out. She pitched a great game."
Hernandez tossed a complete-game shutout as the Guards defeated the Valiants, 7-0, at Robert Gross Park.
"I was surprised," Hernandez said of getting the start in the circle. "I was confident going in. I always am. Just do what I have to do for the team."
Hernandez has pitched some this season, but she usually plays first base while the primary hurling duties fall on the arm Mia Acosta. Hernandez allowed three hits and walked two while striking out two for the victory.
"I felt ecstatic," she said. "I wasn't really sure that was going to happen, and I was really happy that I had the defense behind me."
The Guards' offense came out slow for the first two innings, but Galindo told his players to just "keep hitting the ball hard." The bats eventually came around as Bell-Jeff scored two runs in each of the third and fourth innings and three runs in the fifth.
Hernandez only ran into real trouble in the fifth inning, loading the bases after hitting a batter, a walk and a single. Galindo visited the mound to give his hurler a pep talk, and the senior settled down, striking out the next Valiant batter to end the inning.
"I was nervous," Hernandez said. "I remembered to take a few deep breaths, keep calm and everything will turn out great."
St. Genevieve pitcher Nicole Perez allowed seven runs on 12 hits and a walk. She struck out five.
Various Guards enjoyed multi-hit days. Cristina Colon had a triple, double, RBI and two runs scored. Teammate Priscilla Panizo had two doubles, a single, an RBI and two runs scored. Monique Landini, the team's only other senior, had a pair of singles.
The win improves the Guards to 17-10 and 7-0 in Santa Cruz League with one game remaining on Thursday against St. Mary's Academy.
Galindo was happy to see his team come out focused even though it clinched league last week and are now only waiting for the postseason to begin.
"The girls came out with that spirit and energy, it shows that they're still focused," said Galindo, whose team won its fourth straight league title. "They're not just coming in here and rolling over."
With the playoffs scheduled to start next week, Bell-Jeff has won four straight games and the team may be playing its best ball of the year. Hernandez said that they will need to get their offense going earlier in games, but are otherwise ready for the postseason.
"I believe we're ready for playoffs," Hernandez said. "There's always room for improvement, but we're going to keep going in the same direction that we're going, which is a pretty good one."