BURBANK — In its opening playoff game last week, the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team had a relatively easy time earning a nine-run win against Frazier Mountain.
However, it appeared the Guards would face their first true test of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs with a second-round game against Pasadena Poly and its accomplished pitcher, DeeDee Logan.
PHOTOS: Bell Jeff High vs. Pasadena Poly in softball playoffs
But Bell-Jeff has its own talented hurler in All-CIF standout Mia Acosta.
For three and a half innings the two pitchers went at it in a scoreless battle. However, the Bell-Jeff offense was finally able to produce some runs when it pushed across three in the bottom of the fourth. Essentially that's all the Guards would need, as Acosta turned in a one-hit gem and Bell-Jeff rolled to an 8-0 victory at Gross Park.
With the win, Bell-Jeff (20-10), the Santa Cruz League champion, will be making its fourth straight appearance in the quarterfinals — the prior three years coming in Division VII. The Guards will play either Boron or Cantwell Sacred Heart at 3:15 p.m. Thursday at a site to be determined.
The past two seasons, Bell-Jeff, which is seeded No. 2, advanced to the Division VII championship, losing both years to Pomona Catholic, which just happens to be seeded No. 1 in Division VI.
"We knew about them coming in and we knew they were going to be a tough team," Pasadena Poly Coach Steve Beerman said of the Guards. "That's the best team we've played all season. …Hat's off to them."
Acosta, a junior, continued what has been a wealth of success the past two seasons in the playoffs. Through two games, the right-hander has surrendered just one run, that coming in the 10-1 result against Frazier Mountain. In last season's playoffs, Acosta gave up just a single run.
Against Pasadena Poly (15-6) — the No. 2 team from the Prep League — Acosta turned in a steady performance. Along with the one hit, she struck out seven and walked two.
"I don't think about how many hits I've given up when I'm out there," Acosta said. "I just try and concentrate on the batter.
"But it's nice to have a good infield behind me. Sometimes when a ball is hit I don't even have to look back because I know they're going to get it."
Acosta made just one mistake against the Panthers. With one out in the top of the fourth inning, Natalie Edwards took a 2-1 offering and blasted it to deep left field. The ball sailed over the head of outfielder Priscilla Panizo, who quickly ran down the ball and made a fine relay throw to hold Edwards at third.
Facing a runner at third, Acosta bared down. She got Logan out on a slow roller to first and then got out of the jam by inducing a comebacker off the bat of Alex Clark.
"That was huge right there, them not being able to score after getting that triple in the first with one out," Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo said. "If they would have gone ahead and took the lead, who knows? Maybe then our girls would start pressing and it's a different ballgame."
"I really don't think that one run would have made that much of a difference," he said. "We would have loved to put a number up, yes, without a doubt that would have been nice. But looking back, that wasn't the game."
The Guards, who had eight hits, received a two-hit outing at the plate from Acosta, who was two for four with a run scored. Monique Landini, Panizo, Karina Hernendez and Samantha Casarez all drove in single runs for Bell-Jeff.
Through the first three innings, Logan kept the Guards in check, limiting them to just two hits. However, the hosts began to make things happen in the fourth when Logan began to falter.
Following an infield hit by Cristina Colon, Palacios was hit by a pitch and Casarez walked to load the bases with no outs. Panizo was then hit by a Logan pitch to score the first run of the contest. Palacios then took advantage of a rundown at second to motor home for the second run and Hernendez followed with a perfect bunt single that plated the third run.
"Mia was pitching a good game, so we knew we would only have to get a couple of runs on the board and we would be fine," Galindo said. "When we scored those three runs, I started to feel more comfortable and it was a sign of relief there in the fourth."
The Guards added three additional runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
Along with Edwards' hit in the first, only two other Panthers were able to reach base, as Logan walked in the fourth inning and Kelly Berg walked in the seventh. Neither runner was able to get to second.
"I'm pleased with our performance," Beerman said. "Our entire infield will be back next year, so we have a lot to look forward to. This is the kind of experience that we need."