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Oak Ridge faces critical week

By: Matt Long
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If Oak Ridge High’s varsity softball team is to make the playoffs, the Lady Trojans need a pair of wins this week. The Lady Trojans, 2-4 in the Delta River League and 11-9-1 overall, are2 ½ games behind St. Francis and Pleasant Grove and must catch one of the two teams to make the playoffs, and that’s not counting Ponderosa, who also sits at 2-4 in league play. Oak Ridge plays host to Pleasant Grove on Wednesday and travels to St. Francis on Friday. “No doubt these two games are critical,” Oak Ridge assistant coach Mike McCauley said. Making Wednesday’s game more special is that it’s senior night, as the team will honor seniors Julia Okasaki, Christine Berg, Kasey Stanchek, Jenessa Jeppesen and Megan Watson. Oak Ridge is coming off a good performance at the Nor Cal Classic in Tracy, picking up wins over Lincoln 9-1, and Lemoore, 5-2, while falling to Johansen, 3-1, and Oakdale, 4-3. McCauley said the team hit the ball well during the tournament and was overall more aggressive, which was a welcomed sight. Stanchek, Okasaki and Christina Arace all saw time on the rubber and pitched well. Jeppesen belted two home runs in the win over Lincoln, while Lauren Bertoy also had a solid tournament, according to McCauley. “It was a good tournament for us,” McCauley said. “We hit the ball and put it in play, and we played great defense in support of our pitchers. Jade was phenomenal at shortstop.” The tournament has helped to put the 8-2 loss to Sheldon on April 27 out of their minds. The Huskies came out swinging the bats, scoring four runs on four hits and a walk in the first inning. Oak Ridge scored twice on three hits in the bottom of the inning, but only had two hits the rest of the game, while Sheldon tacked on four more runs. After the game Oak Ridge coach Marc Bentovoja was impressed with the Huskies. “Sheldon earns what they get and takes what they want,” Bentovoja said. “There may be girls who throw harder than (pitcher) Alexis Cooper, but they’ve got the best lineup, one through nine, in the section and they play consistently on defense. We scrimmaged against Elk Grove, but I think Sheldon is the team to beat in Division I.” Stanchek is one of the top pitchers in the area and she didn’t get a batter out in the first inning until the sixth hitter in the lineup. Zamari Hinton led off the game with a single and Danielle Wiltz followed with a walk. Danielle Henderson doubled to right field to score Hinton, but Wiltz was thrown out at home plate. Cooper followed with a RBI single to right field that got through Jeppesen at first base. Dejanee Moore followed with a two-run home run to right field to give the Huskies a 4-0 lead they wouldn’t lose. To their credit, the Lady Trojans answered in their half of the inning as Bertoy, Jackie Schmaeling and Jade Matsumoto all singled to load the bases. Bertoy scored on Watson’s fielder’s choice grounder, while Schmaeling came in on an error by Sheldon first baseman Nikki Miles, but that’s all Oak Ridge could do. Sheldon made it 5-2 with three singles in the third and tacked on three more runs in the fifth. After the first inning, Oak Ridge’s only hits in the game came in the sixth when Matsumoto and Watson hit one-out singles. Cooper got Jeppesen and Okasaki to strike out to end the inning. Matsumoto had two singles to lead the team. Stanchek battled throughout the game, allowing eight runs on 10 hits, five walks, one hit batter and one error. She also struck out seven. “We had numerous mental mistakes,” Bentovoja said. “Even when we knew what was coming, we were still reacting. We as a coaching staff are not upset with the result, but we’re just not playing smart.”