ATWATER — Buhach Colony high softball coach Michelle Osmer's had a simple message for her team.
Modesto High pitcher Jasmine Hill would provide the power. All the Thunder had to do was make contact.
Jennifer Moreno's first career home run opened the scoring and set the pace as the Thunder cruised to a 10-1 victory over the visiting Panthers in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs.
In Modesto, Atwater was eliminated by Gregori, 8-1, in their playoff opener as every Jaguar batter had at least one hit.
The offense shined in both games. Osmer had hammered home her point with a pitching machine firing away at top speed from right around 30 feet at practice on Monday.
The drill gave Moreno the confidence she needed to foul off a handful of 0-2 pitches in the second inning on Tuesday afternoon, before crushing a two-run home run to dead center.
Buhach Colony (14-11-1) advances to face Rocklin (23-3) at the Sacramento Softball Complex on Saturday.
"Coach is always telling us we can't be up there scared, no matter what the count is," Moreno said. "I fought off some tough pitches and then got lucky she threw one right down the middle of the plate.
"I thought it was going to be caught. It wasn't until my coach started yelling at first that I knew it was a home run. It was a pretty great feeling."
Moreno's blast changed the entire dynamic of what was shaping up to be a pitcher's duel.
BC's Mary Castillo didn't allow a hit until the third inning and retired nine of the first 11 batters she faced.
Hill who had limited the Thunder to three hits and struck out seven in a meeting earlier in the year sat down the first five batters she faced in order with relative ease.
Batter number six proved a different story as Allison Clarot came up with a two-strike, seeing-eye single off the end of the bat with two down in the second.
Moreno followed with a two-strike hit of her own to make it 2-0.
"The thing I love about this team is they always go up aggressive, no matter what the count is," Osmer said. "We told the girls against someone who throws that hard, just go up and get the bat on the ball. You do that and odds are you'll find some holes."
Buhach used its speed to build upon the lead in the third inning.
Hailey McClain got the rally started with a bunt single and Castillo (2 for 4 with a double) followed with an infield single of her own.
Osmer called for the double steal, and McClain came home to score when the third baseman didn't cover the bag and Carrie Balzer's throw sailed into left.
Catrina Wilson reached on a third infield single. She and Castillo both scored on a Kerstin Smith scorched one-hopper off of the left-center fence to make it 5-0.
That was more than enough run support for Castillo.
The junior limited the Panthers (14-9-1) to six hits and struck out seven.
Her only real trouble came in the fourth inning when back-to-back hits helped Modesto put runners on second and third with one down.
Castillo responded with a strikeout and then got Tanya McGladrey to line out to second to end the jam. The Panthers went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the game.
"I felt like we were up for this game, but Jennifer's home run just raised up our energy to another level," Castillo said. "It calmed me down knowing I had a cushion to work with.
"I'm a a ground ball pitcher, so if I can pitch ahead in the count and let my defense play behind me, it usually goes well."
Modesto got on the board thanks to a wild pitch in the sixth, but the wheels fell off in the bottom half of the inning.
A mental mistake with two outs saw a ground ball to second inaccurately thrown home, allowing BC to get the run right back and extending the inning.
Wilson eventually drew a bases loaded walk to make it 7-1, and then a base-clearing error on a fly ball to left put the game away.
Gregori 8, Atwater 1
MODESTO Brigette Berlier got the Falcons off to an ideal start with an RBI double in the first inning. That was all the hitting Atwater (10-14-12) could muster off Gregori pitcher Kristin Borst.
Kylee Pierce had a pair of hits and drove in two for the Jaguars (18-7-1).