Late push propels Lady Dogs to playoff opener win over Concord

Alhambra junior outfielder Miranda Nilson slides in safely to third base in the Bulldogs’ 7-3 win over the Concord Minutemen on Friday, May 27, 2016. Nilson went 2-for-3 with a double and triple. She also drove in a run. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra junior outfielder Miranda Nilson slides in safely to third base in the Bulldogs’ 7-3 win over the Concord Minutemen on Friday, May 27, 2016. Nilson went 2-for-3 with a double and triple. She also drove in a run. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

By CLAIRE PULKOWNIK
Martinez Tribune

The Lady Bulldogs are headed to the semi-finals of Division II North Coast Section for their fifth straight year in division II after their 7-3 win over the Concord Minutemen on Friday May 27, 2016.

As the number one seed, Alhambra earned a bye for the first round, and faced number eight seed Concord in the quarterfinals. Concord knocked off number nine Alameda in the previous round in order to advance.

Alhambra’s bats started off strong in the bottom of the second on a line-drive triple for junior Miranda Nilson that brought home fellow junior and first-baseman Regan Silva.

The first-baseman had reached on what would turn out to be a costly error by Concord’s left-fielder.

Runs kept coming in for the Bulldogs in the third. As there were two runners in scoring position with one out as Karlee Sparacino came up to bat and hit a ground ball to the Minutemen’s second baseman.

On a fielder’s choice, Concord’s catcher, sophomore Veronica Castaneda, dropped the ball, allowing pinch-runner JoJo Kelly to score.

Later in the inning, Silva swung and missed the ball on a 1-2 count with two outs.

Luckily for Silva, and Sparacino on third base, she was able to make it to first base safely, allowing her teammate to score at home plate.

While the Bulldogs were scoring runs, their base running was not up to the caliber they would have liked. Five of fourteen runners were brought in to pinch-run for the starters during the game.

“Our base-running wasn’t there…That’s why I think we made the mistakes that let them stay in the game, if we don’t make a couple of base running errors, we’re 7-0 easy,” Head Coach Buccellato said. “It costs us at least three, maybe four runs easy.”

Alhambra’s starting pitcher, Sam Whitworth, pitched well through five innings. She allowed one hit, four walks, and struck out two batters. When asked why he choose to take his starter out, Coach Buccellato said, “Just to give her a rest. She pitched well, she only gave up one hit. Had a couple walks here and there, but she did a good job…I think my pitching can pitch against anybody and I need to have both pitchers ready to pitch at all times.”

The Minutemen scored all three of their runs in the top of the sixth inning on two well hit balls to left-field. The first was a fly-ball double by senior Elvia Alvarado which scored Aleya Rath and Morgyn Wynne. The second was a single hard ground ball hit in the gap that allowed junior Juliana Pichardo to score from third. Even with the three runs scored by Concord, Alhambra was still up 4-3 as they went up to bat in the sixth.

Nilson, after smacking a line-drive double to left field and stealing third, scored on a wild pitch to begin the two-out rally for the Bulldogs.

Alejia Lewis, pinch-running for Maci Shepherd, scored on an error by Concord. Alhambra went up 7-3 as Lindsey Osmer scored on a single by Cervantes.

After their win on Friday, the Bulldogs look to their semi-final match up against the number four seed, Carondelet Cougars on Wednesday June 1st at four pm at Alhambra High School. The winner of that game will face the winner of Newark Memorial vs. Montgomery in the finals.

“I just told them to have fun, you have fun, you’re gonna play well…relax and play,” Coach Buccellato said about the team moving forward in the playoffs. “This is a close knit group of kids, they all get along…they all got each others’ backs, and if they relax and have fun, we’re gonna do good.”

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