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Lady Bruins Stay Alive In Playoff Race
4-24 RIV Softball2
Olivia Luu of Riverbank sprints to third to set up the potential tying run in a 3-2 loss to Escalon. - photo by IKE DODSON/THE NEWS

Cassi Ross isn’t a witchdoctor, but the Riverbank High softball coach is dangerously close to crafting voodoo dolls of Orestimba and Escalon softball players.

With four games left on the Trans-Valley League schedule as of Monday, Riverbank is tied for fourth in the conference standings and Ross is desperately willing bad luck onto rivals Escalon and Orestimba.

If the Cougars and Warriors can only implode against tough foes to close the year, Riverbank can take care of business at the seasons’ end and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

“(Escalon and Orestimba) need to collapse,” Ross said on Monday. “Two weeks ago I didn’t think it was possible, but it is.

“We have to win, without a doubt, but we also need Escalon and Orestimba to lose.”

The Bruins (9-11-1 overall, 4-4 TVL) took one on the chin on April 16 in a 3-2 loss to Escalon, but fired back by upsetting Orestimba 10-6 at home two days later.

Since Hughson (7-0) and Ripon (5-2) sit atop the TVL standings, Ross figures Riverbank’s best shot a postseason advancement comes from the downfall of third-place Orestimba (5-3) and tragedies to befall tied-for-fourth Escalon (4-4).

Only the top three conference teams will earn a trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V postseason.

“I’m really proud of the girls, because they have not given up that hope, even after being beaten by Ripon and Hughson pretty badly,” Ross said. “They have fought back to get in this, and that is a big deal.”

The varsity Lady Bruins stayed in contention by jumping ahead of Orestimba with three first inning runs and three more in the third inning to force the departure of freshman ace Celeste Amescua (7-4, 2.70 ERA). It was Amescua’s single worst outing of a sterling 15-7 season for the Warriors.

The Bruins would surrender two runs in each of the last two innings, but scored three in the fifth off junior Tori Newell to keep the margin of victory intact.

Brittany Cody hit 3 for 4 with two triples for Riverbank, while Breanna Allen was 3 for 4 with a double. Tori Sandoval (2 for 2, double), Olivia Luu (2 for 2, two runs) and Savannah Pudillo (2 for 4) also hit well. The Bruins got a stellar complete game effort from Yolando Sandoval, who didn’t surrender a walk until the sixth inning.

The Bruins had appeared primed to steal a second victory from Escalon earlier in the week, but couldn’t capitalize when Luu took two bases on a passed ball to reach third with one out in the top of the last inning. A devastating called-third strike and fly-out to centerfield granted Escalon the pivotal victory.

“We are young, but we need to do adjustments on the fly,” Ross said. “I wasn’t upset after Escalon, because we beat them in extra innings last time and we made only one error in the loss.”

The Bruins were at Hilmar (1-7) on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. The team hosts Ripon on May 1.