Placer ends Bear River's eight-year run

Stufflebean delivers game-winning two-RBI double in sixth inning
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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LAKE OF THE PINES ? It didn?t matter that the Placer High softball hadn?t beaten Bear River in eight years. It didn?t matter that the Hillgals trailed by one run going into the sixth inning. Nor did it matter that Brooke Stufflebean was hitless on the day when she came up to the plate with two outs and two runners on. One batter after Abby Kendall knocked in the game-tying run Wednesday, Stufflebean drove a double over the centerfielder?s head to give the Hillgals a 7-5 lead. The margin stuck after the Hillgals fought off the Bruins? last-ditch effort to remain undefeated in Pioneer Valley League play when Stufflebean?s throw beat Jenny Astwood to first base for the final out of the game with two runners on base. ?For eight years we?ve lost to Bear River and it means a lot because it means we?re coming up and we?re getting better,? said Stufflebean, a junior. ?This really just topped it off and gave us the confidence that we need to go to playoffs. Placer (6-2 PVL, 14-3) came into the game with newfound confidence after it knocked off Center 3-2 Monday to secure second place in the PVL. That momentum carried over against Bear River, which it hadn?t beaten since 2004 when the two teams were in different leagues. The Bruins dropped to 7-1 in the PVL and 13-5-2 overall. The Hillgals jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning behind an RBI-single from junior Kassidy Kosmata and a two-RBI single from junior Claire Hansen. They added another in the fourth when the normally sure-handed shortstop Stephanie Ceo committed two errors in the inning. Bear River picked up five runs in the bottom of the fifth behind an RBI triple from Rachel Last and an RBI single from Ceo. Stufflebean threw Cambria Holcomb?s grounder low to first for what would have been the second out in the inning and allowed Ceo to score on the play. After Alyssa Reina, who leads the league in batting average (.627) took an intentional walk Mackinze Hollister chopped an RBI single up the middle for the game-tying run. Freshman pitcher Kaelin Amrein relieved Jenna Knox following Hollister?s hit but gave up a slow grounder to first that brought in the speedy Ceo to give the Bruins a 5-4 lead. Placer didn?t take long to regain the lead. After the first two batters grounded out in the top of the sixth, senior Kailey Gaffney singled and was followed by a slap single from senior Taylor Hill. Kendall worked the count from 1-2 to 3-2 before she drove a pitch in to the gap in right center for an RBI single. Bruins? ace Erin Nichol came in to relieve starting pitcher Maddie Phelps but couldn?t get past Stufflebean, who was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and a walk before she smashed what would turn out to be the game-winning hit. ?That?s three games in a row between Brooke and Abby Kendall that Kendall gets the base hit to tie it and Brooke gets the base hit to win it ? three big games,? said first-year Placer coach Doug Menefee. ?You can?t ask for any more out of your two and three hitters. I?m pretty proud.? The heart of Bear River?s lineup came up in the bottom of the seventh but Holcomb struck out and Reina popped out to first on the first pitch she saw. Hollister kept the inning alive with a walk and Nichol chopped a single up the middle to represent the tying run. Astwood followed with a slow grounder up the left side and looked to beat the throw by a half step but was ruled out by the umpire for the final out. ?Both teams struggled making plays defensively and that?s putting pressure on them,? said Bear River coach Duane Zauner about the Bruins? four errors and Placer?s three. ?Tough call at the end of the game but I?m not blaming it on that because we allowed that to happen. If you score earlier in the game the seventh doesn?t matter.? Amrein picked up the win after she held Bear River scoreless over 2 1/3 innings on two hits, four strikeouts and one walk. Phelps earned the loss after 5 2/3 innings with seven runs and eight hits.