MODESTO – The young Bret Harte High School softball team is learning how to be competitive. However, they are still in the process of learning how to win. The Bullfrogs came within one out of capturing their first victory of the season, only to have it taken away from them in extra innings.
Bret Harte fell to the Grace Davis Spartans 7-6 in eight innings Monday afternoon in Modesto. The Bullfrogs had a 6-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, but couldn't put away the Spartans.
“It’s disappointing, but I’m still proud of everyone,” said sophomore starting pitcher Morgan McDearmid. “We battled the whole game and it’s not like we gave up at the end. We went down trying.”
McDearmid and the Bullfrogs found themselves trailing 2-0 after the first inning, as Davis scored both of its runs with two-out hits. In the top of the third, Bret Harte was able to do some damage and it all started with a risky decision by one of its freshman players. With two strikes and one away, Jaycee Davey laid down a perfect bunt and beat the throw to first and advanced to second on a throwing error. That play was the beginning of what turned out to be a four-run inning.
“For a freshman, that takes a lot of confidence,” said Bret Harte head coach Rich Juarez about Davey bunting with two strikes. “I didn’t ask her to do that. She did that on her own. For a freshman to take the horse by the reins with the big hitters coming up behind her, that’s just a huge momentum swing for your team.”
With Davey at second, junior shortstop Karlee Juarez knocked her home with a double. Trailing by only one run, McDearmid looked to tie the game with a base hit. The sophomore did more than that. The powerful lefty smoked a loud liner over the head of the right fielder and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. McDearmid raced around second and saw her coaching waving her home. She slid across the plate just moments before the tag for an inside the park home run.
“Off the bat, I was thinking I could get a double, but the ball just kept going and I kept going, too,” McDearmid said about her hit that gave the Bullfrogs a 3-2 lead. “When I saw I was being waved home, I was thinking that I better get down, because I’m not that fast.”
With the bases empty, junior Jenna Leary singled to center and junior Kinlye Apley followed with a hit of her own and the Bullfrogs had runners at second and third with one away. Sophomore Liberty Garcia knocked in Bret Harte’s fourth run of the inning with a single, which extended the lead to 4-2.
The four-run inning was the most Bret Harte has scored in a single inning all season.
“Today was a lot better,” said Rich Juarez. “The girls hit the ball a lot better and it was the way that I thought we would be hitting earlier in the season, but we just haven't been. There was also a lot of improvement with them knowing the signs.”
Pitching for the first time with a lead, McDearmid found herself in trouble in the bottom of the third. After a leadoff walk and a triple, Davis cut the lead to 4-3 and looked prime to do more damage. With one out and runners at second and third, McDearmid buckled down and stuck out the next two batters and escaped the jam with only surrendering the one run.
“I just want to keep those runners on the bases,” said McDearmid, who pitched all eight innings. “I don’t want to be the one to mess it up for the rest of the team. I want to keep them on there and trust my defense behind me to help me out.”
The Bullfrogs added to their lead in the top of the fifth. Juarez led off with a walk and then stole second. McDearmid got plunked in the back, which put runners at first and second. Both Juarez and McDearmid moved up one base on a wild pitch and Juarez ended up scoring on an RBI from Leary. McDearmid scored on an RBI bunt from Apley and Bret Harte led 6-3.
The score remained 6-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh. Davis scored three times to force extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Apley led off with a double that split the left and center fielders, but was unable to score. Davis won the game in the bottom of the frame with an RBI single to left.
McDearmid took the loss, giving up seven runs on 14 hits. She walked seven and struck out three in eight innings of work. Offensively, Bret Harte scored six runs on eight hits, while collecting three walks and striking out six times.
Bret Harte (0-6) will try again to capture its first win of the season as it takes on Millennium Wednesday afternoon in Tracy.