Hillgals snap playoff draught

Placer clinches No. 2 seed in PVL for playoff appearance in 15 seasons
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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The quest for its first playoff appearance in 15 years had already taken long enough for the Placer High softball team. So, despite a vastly different lineup, the Hillgals dropped lowly Foothill 10-0 Wednesday in a five inning game that nearly forced a playoff for the Pioneer Valley League?s first seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III tournament. ?I would have thought it (the playoffs) were possible, not necessarily probable,? Placer senior pitcher Jenna Knox said of her team?s chances of a playoff appearance prior to the season. ?It was definitely always possible, it was just a matter of pulling it together for us.? The Hillgals haven?t reached the postseason since 1997. They fell on hard times as of late with a string of losing seasons that escalated to a 3-7 PVL record last year. Placer?s fortunes completely reversed this season on the way to a 16-3 overall record and a No. 2 seed in the playoffs with an 8-2 PVL record with largely the same cast. Placer had high hopes from the beginning of the season and jumped out to an 8-1 non-league record. Then things started to unravel a bit when it stepped into the PVL and started 1-2 with losses to early league title contenders Bear River and Center. But since a 12-2 win over 2011 PVL champ Lincoln on April 18, no one has been able to stop the Hillgals? momentum. ?They?ve done everything we?ve asked them to do and pushed hard week in and week out,? said first-year Placer coach Doug Menefee said. ?You have those days when you come out and they?re a little goofy because they want to fall back to where we were but they respond really quick when we get them back into the game again. I?ve been really proud of them.? The team closed out the season on a seven-game win streak and would have forced a one-game playoff with Bear River ? which it beat 7-5 on May 2 to split the season series. Instead, the Bruins beat Center 6-4 to clinch the PVL crown. The Hillgals will settle for the No. 2 seed and a home playoff game at 4 p.m. Tuesday against River Valley. The winner will advance to play Whitney on May 18 at the Sacramento Softball Complex at 6 p.m. Had the Hillgals lost Wednesday they still would have been the No. 2 seed so they felt confident enough to start an all-senior infield on Senior Day and put the game in Knox?s hands. Knox struggled with her command early but rebounded to finish the game with six strikeouts and two hits allowed. She also went 2-for-3 from the plate with two RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base. ?It was just kind of a matter of warming up and getting used to the game and the different positions that everyone was in,? Knox said.