CERES — The Ceres High Bulldogs and Rio Americano of Sacramento exchanged forehands and backhands for more than four hours Tuesday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II tennis semifinals.
It turned into a bittersweet ending to Ceres’ exceptional season.
The Bulldogs (29-1), bidding for their second consecutive trip to the section title match, dropped two three-set matches out of three and were beaten 5-4.
“They were all close matches. Even the matches that weren’t close by score actually were decided by only a few big points,” Ceres coach Bryan Harden said. “It couldn’t have been more even.”
Ceres, the Western Athletic Conference champion which has gone 79-5 over the past three seasons, featured wins by its No. 1 and No. 2 singles, freshman Nolan McCaig and junior Julio Ochoa. The Bulldogs also were encouraged by the three-set win by doubles pair Heath Adrian and Dennis Phommalinh.
But Rio Americano advanced to the final against Mira Loma, an upset winner over Bella Vista.
“I couldn’t have asked more from my guys,” Harden said. “We fought and left it all out there.”
Panthers’ rally late – Myah Flores sped home on a passed ball to cap a clutch two-run rally in the seventh for Modesto High’s 2-1 first-round win over Davis-Yolo in the Section Division I Tournament. Cassie Sexson, who started the rally with a double, stole third and was squeezed home by Lani Balzer.
Modesto pitcher Jasmine Hill gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh but stranded the tying run at second. Hill pitched from start to finish for the Panthers (11-10), third-place finishers in the Modesto Metro Conference.
“The girls are very excited,” coach Megan Ramsey said. “They’re hard-working and kept at it until the end.”
Modesto returns to the Sacramento Softball Complex for its second-round game Saturday morning against San Joaquin Athletic Association champion Tracy.
Pitman wins – Alexis Mettler went the distance and retired West in order in the seventh to preserve a 5-3 first-round win. The Pride (15-12) took the lead 2-1 in the third on catcher Nicky Bailey’s two-run double. It stayed 2-1 until Pitman’s three-run sixth, featuring Mettler’s run-scoring double.
Bailey doubled, tripled and drove in three for the Pride, which will be the underdog Saturday morning against nationally-ranked Vacaville (24-0-1), the tournament’s No. 1 seed.