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Bruins’ softball dynasty lives on

Bear River romps to fourth straight section title, led by sophomore pitcher Nichol and star seniors
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The Bear River High softball team only made it look easy. In truth, the Bruins’ fourth straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title season included a couple of setbacks that might have derailed other teams. But Bear River peaked in the postseason, crushing Center 11-1 Saturday at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton to win the championship. The Bruins beat the Cougars 13-1 in Friday’s semifinal and nearly duplicated their performance Saturday. It was a sweet ending for seniors Katie Mathis and Courtney Ceo, who will go down as two of Bear River’s all-time great athletes. “As a coach you only get kids like that once in a while and it’s special,” Bear River coach Duane Zauner said. “They play the game with every fiber in their bodies. They’re extremely hard workers. In their careers they scored 230 runs and combined for more than 200 RBIs between them in four years. That just tells you what they did for the program.” On Saturday, sophomore pitcher Erin Nichol scattered six hits and struck out seven while getting plenty of offensive support. Ceo closed out her brilliant career with a 4-for-4 day at the plate while Mathis was 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs. After winning section titles every year of their high school careers, Ceo will play at Oregon next year while Mathis is headed to San Diego State. Senior Christiane Thill contributed in her final game as Bruin , going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Bear River’s youngsters did their share of damage with the bats too. Sophomore Stephanie Ceo was 2-for-3, Nichol added a double and freshman Cassie Breazeale was 1-for-1. In Friday’s victory, sophomore Alyssa Reina smacked a three-run home run to highlight a nine-run first inning. Courtney Ceo was 3-for-5 with four RBIs and Mathis had a triple and two RBIs. Sophomore Cambria Holcomb was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs and Taylor Kimble added two RBIs. The Bruins were not the favorites when the playoffs began Wednesday night. Lincoln had beaten Bear River twice in Pioneer Valley League play to win the PVL championship. But the Zebras were stunned by Center 3-0 in Wednesday’s opener. “I told (Lincoln coach) Donna Tofft I felt bad because I felt like we were the two best teams in the section,” Zauner said. “It would have been fun to play them again, but Center beat them and you take your hat off to Center.” The Bear River offense had struggled at times this spring, but the Bruins had no trouble scoring runs in the playoffs. They outscored their opponents 35-3 in three games. “We finally got a couple of days to practice outside this week,” Zauner said. “We’ve been in the gym a lot so I think that hurt us earlier in the season. This week was a nice run for us.” Bear River finished the season 24-4.