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Seven Innings Never Enough For Lady Bruins
The Riverbank High varsity softball squad rolled into the Jim Elliot Christian Tournament feeling the effects of an extra-inning Trans-Valley League contest, but it didn't seem to matter as the squad found themselves battling in bonus play in their first two rounds of tournament action over spring break.

Riverbank battled back to tie things up at 5-5 in first round action against Christian Brothers High of Sacramento, but a 3-run ninth inning left the Lady Bruins on the short end of an 8-5 loss to the Falcons.

The bonus-play bug kept its fangs stuck deep into the Lady Bruins as their next contest left Riverbank deadlocked in a 0-0 tie with the Redwood Christian Eagles, only to see a questionable call leave the Lady Bruins gripping with another extra-inning defeat.

International rules put a Redwood Christian runner in scoring position with no outs and an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt attempt pushed the Eagles ahead 1-0 and thrust the Lady Bruins into urgency with no outs in the top of the eighth.

Riverbank settled down and got themselves out of a sticky situation, but the Lady Bruins still had to force a run across to keep their chances alive. Riverbank was able to do that, but a blocking call at home plate left the Lady Bruins settling with a tie versus plating their second run of the inning.

The Eagles would scratch another run across in the ninth with their first hint of success against Riverbank hurler Carlye Avey and the Lady Bruins came up empty in their half of the frame, spoiling a tremendous nine-inning effort from their ace Avey.

"They got a few gifts that if they don't get we win easy," Lady Bruin head coach Cassi Ross said. "Carlye threw a one-hitter and they got their one hit in the ninth inning. She had a no-hitter going for eight innings, but we made five errors."

Offensively, Riverbank didn't solve the Eagles starter until late in the ball game. The Lady Bruins seemed baffled by the Redwood Christian starter's pitching speed, but when the squad figured her out, miraculous plays in the field by the RC defense was the only thing that kept the Eagles from being handed the defeat.

"The first five innings we didn't hit her at all," Ross said. "We just were not disciplined enough to keep our hands back. We kept trying to pull that outside pitch and all you're going to get is ground balls.

"When we got disciplined, they just seemed to keep making sno-cone catches."

The Lady Bruins were able to close out tournament play on a good note, blasting Valley Christian of Roseville 10-0, salvaging a 1-2 record over the four-day tournament.

"The whole reason we played in that tournament is so when we got back from Spring Break we'd be ready to go," Ross said. "We were able to get what we needed. We saw some stuff we need to work on in practice and we got some at-bats.

"That is really what we needed, we needed the at-bats."

Riverbank will now bounce back to a tough week of TVL action, as the squad will play three games in three days, including a battle with the once-defeated Escalon Cougars. The Cougars were able to steam past the Lady Bruins 9-0 in their first meeting and have reeled off 12 consecutive victories in recent action.

"The girls are going to have to stay focused," Ross said of the squad's three-game stretch with Hughson, Escalon and Modesto Christian. "The one thing we ask them to do is be aggressive at the plate. If they come in and they're not focused, it's going to get ugly.

"But if they come out focused they'll be three good ball games."

Riverbank will play host to the Cougars on Wednesday, April 22 at 4 p.m. and will travel to take on the Modesto Christian Crusaders on Thursday, April 23 at 4 p.m.