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Bruin Softball Team Runs Gauntlet This Week
It's a crazy year for Trans-Valley League softball, and not just because of March downpours that forced several games to be postponed.

Twenty-five days into the 55-day season, the TVL title is up for grabs for all seven conference programs. And the team in last place, 1-3 Escalon, would shock no one if they bounced back to repeat their league and Sac-Joaquin Section title.

The Cougars are the only team to defeat first place Hilmar (3-1), and did so after injured ace Caitlyn Brooks made her triumphant return to the lineup.

Riverbank (2-3) lost close games to both Orestimba (3-2) and Hilmar, but toppled a Ripon team (2-3) last week that has beaten Hughson (3-2) and Orestimba.

Only Riverbank and Hughson have beaten Modesto Christian (2-2), and the Bruins get a chance to repeat that feat when they face the visiting Crusaders today.

The Bruins faced Brooks and the Cougars in a make-up game on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. Riverbank is at Escalon on Friday to cap a run of three games this week that should determine much of the positioning in the TVL standings.

"No one is dominating this league, and everybody is battling," Riverbank coach Cassi Ross said. "The league is still wide open and it's in our own hands right now.

"We don't need any help, we need to help ourselves."

The Bruins helped themselves to a 7-3 win over Ripon on April 6 after a Tori Sandoval RBI tied the game and repeated knocks from Carlye Avey, Cassandra Gilbert, Amy McDonald and Amanda Lopez led to a four run stanza in the third and two more runs in the seventh.

Avey allowed just seven hits from the Ripon lineup and closed with two scoreless frames to ensure the victory.

Riverbank went on to face a tough Hughson program on Friday, but couldn't get the better of a Huskies squad that starts two of coach Ross's nieces, Payton and Shelby Ross.

The Bruins committed eight errors in that game, allowing the same number of unearned runs in a 12-4 defeat.

"I think I demanded too much of them because of the rivalry in that game, and that was unfair to them," Coach Ross said. "The kids were just trying to please me, and things got much more tense than they should have been."

Aimee Lopez and Avey, both bound for college softball in the fall, were the only Bruins to nab multiple hits in the loss.