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Bruins halt Hillgals’ upset hopes

Placer plays well, but Bear River’s combination of speed, power proves too tough
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Brooke Swisley followed her game plan perfectly Thursday afternoon in the pitcher’s circle at Placer High. But Bear River’s reliable offensive formula proved too potent for the Hillgals to handle. The Bruins fought past Placer for a 5-0 win to keep pace with Lincoln atop the Pioneer Valley League. Swisley held Bear River’s lineup — ranked 15th in California according to MaxPreps with a .412 average — in check for much of the game. But all the Bruins needed was a slight opening to get on the scoreboard. Senior Tori Humbard legged out an infield single to start the second inning and scored on a groundout by Sierra Pruss. Freshman Stephanie Ceo singled home Kenzie Billings, who had walked, and Bear River had all the runs it needed thanks to a strong pitching performance from Billings. Placer (3-5 PVL) managed four hits and one walk on the day, but couldn’t string together a rally against the Bruins’ sharp pitching and airtight defense. “I think we played pretty well, they just played a little better,” said Swisley, who gave up 10 hits and struck out four. “This was one of my better games, definitely.” Bear River tacked on a run in the third after a leadoff double from junior Courtney Ceo and an RBI-single from senior Kathryn Rabak. Senior Amanda Bond denied Bear River a run in the fourth, gunning down a runner at the plate from left field. Center fielder Morgan Taylor also came up with a big assist, throwing out a runner at home to end the sixth inning. The Bruins went back to their bread and butter late in the game to tack on two more runs. Ceo knocked in Pruss with a single up the middle in the sixth. Rabak grounded out to Kacy Romero at second base to bring home Katie Mathis in the seventh. “It really sets the tone with our speed at the start of the game,” said Rabak, who has a team-best 32 RBIs on the season. “It’s totally hat’s off to them. And lately the bottom of our lineup has been hitting really well.” Placer sophomore Taylor Graham belted a double to lead off the fifth inning, but was left stranded at third base as Billings got a pair of strikeouts to end the inning. Tia Wright, Bond and Swisley also had hits for the Hillgals, who hope to make the most of the rest of the season after seeing their playoff hopes fade. “I want to have fun with the girls, play our best and just have a great end of the season,” Swisley said. “We want to walk away happy.” Bear River meanwhile, is in a fierce battle with Lincoln for the PVL crown. Rabak said the Bruins have put a March 19 loss to the Zebras behind them. Bear River got some help in the title chase from Mesa Verde, which beat Lincoln on April 2. “I think ever since Mesa Verde beat Lincoln, we’ve stepped up our game and we’ve been on our toes,” said Rabak, who finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs. “Any team can beat any other team on any given day. We were a little flat today, but we were able to pull it out.” The Bruins will host the Zebras on Tuesday, needing a win to close in on their third straight PVL crown. “We’re going to Tracy this weekend and I think we’re going to be ready for Tuesday,” Rabak said. “The past two years we were sweeping everybody, so it’s different for the seniors, but we’re competing really well and we’re gearing for the playoffs.” In junior varsity action, Placer rallied with one run in the sixth inning and three in the seventh to edge Bear River 4-3. Jenna Knox pitched seven strong, giving up no earned runs for Placer. Kristen Close and Shannon Heller were both 2-for-3 to lead the Hillgals.