A torturous early season schedule left Los Banos 2-9 and wondering if maybe it had been too ambitious when it had committed to six games in the Lion Country Classic against some of Arizona's top teams.
That was followed by a doubleheader vs. Clovis.
Now that Central California Conference play has arrived, however, coach Charlie Pikas and his Tigers are enjoying the benefits of being challenged so often earlier this season.
Junior Kelsie Monroe mowed through Turlock (a 5-1 win) and Atwater (6-0) last week, striking out 20, walking one and allowing only six hits in the two conference wins. Combined with her sharp performances in wins over Merced (3-2) and Buhach Colony (2-1), the Tigers have won four in a row and are in first place.
Monroe's 2.84 ERA doesn't sparkle like some of the other pitchers' statistics, but much of the damage was done during the Arizona tournament. She has allowed one earned run in four CCC games.