Bruins bust out of the gate

Bear River shows off power at the plate, and in pitcher’s circle
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The Placer High softball team bucked many of its recent trends early this season in rolling to 10 wins. Tuesday afternoon as Pioneer Valley League play began things looked all too familiar for the Hillgals thanks to an inspired Bear River squad. The Bruins overpowered Placer for a 7-0 victory as senior Erin Nichol pitched five shutout innings and Alyssa Reina crushed a two-run home run. Neither team had seen the field in 10 days thanks to the recent wet weather, but Bear River looked sharp in its PVL debut. “It was good to be back on the field,” said Nichol, who missed much of her junior year with a dislocated left knee cap. “This was what we expected today. This was the first step on the ladder. We want to get PVL. We have nine seniors who really want it, but we know it’s going to be a fierce competition.” Placer freshman pitcher Kaelin Amrein worked out of a first-inning jam thanks to a beautiful running catch by Haley Tupen in center field. But when the top of the Bear River order came up again in the third inning, it did some major damage. Texas-bound senior Stephanie Ceo drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and stole third. After a Placer error on a foul popup, Cambria Holcomb stroked a single to drive in the first run of the game. Reina then belted a two-run shot well over the fence in right-center field to make it 3-0. The Bear River offense piled on in the fifth inning as Reina got things started with a walk. Mackinze Hollister singled and then Placer committed three straight errors as the Bruins (4-4 overall) doubled their lead. Nichol added a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning to score Reina and make it 7-0. After a first-inning threat, Placer’s bats went silent. Abby Kendall lined a double down the left field line in the first. Tupen added a bunt-single later in the inning, but they were stranded when Ceo made a nice scoop and throw to first base from her shortstop position on a slow roller just behind the pitcher’s circle. Hailey Leggit’s bunt-single in the fifth inning was the only other hit for the Hillgals (10-3). Senior Maddi Dunn tossed two hitless innings to close out the win for the Bruins. Placer hasn’t posted a winning record in more than a decade, but had beaten several quality teams to start the 2012 campaign. First-year coach Doug Menefee said on Tuesday, Bear River showed its experience and poise while Placer had an off-day to open the league slate. “It was a tough start,” Menefee said. “They played a good game and we didn’t play our game. We let them get comfortable. I think they’re the team to beat in league, but anybody can beat anybody. Today was not our day.” Kendall was a bright spot for Placer. The senior was 2-for-3 at the plate and made a couple of defensive gems in left field. In the fifth inning, she raced into foul territory to make a catch before crashing into a chain link fence. She alertly fired to Taylor Hill at third base and Hill chased down a Bear River baserunner for a double play. The Hillgals have plenty of time to regroup. They will not play again until March 28, when they play at Center. Bear River will host Del Campo on Thursday in a non-league contest. In junior varsity play, Placer blanked Bear River 15-0.