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Thill provides chills, thrills to advance Bruins

Bear River overcomes seven-error performance to set up date for section title
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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SACRAMENTO ? Ali Thill could have taken a short trip to the freeway and hitchhiked her way out of a lackluster day in the field. Instead, the Bear River High junior found a way to overcome a three-error day. Thill laid down a leadoff bunt in the top of the fifth that would secure a 4-1 victory Monday over Benicia in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal game at Sacramento Softball Complex. ?Stephanie (Ceo) was telling me before I went up to put the bunt down and use your legs to get you there,? said Thill. ?That?s what I did. It felt so good. Before I could count to one I was there.? The Bruins will play the winner of Whitney-Benicia at 5 p.m. Wednesday for the section title. If the Bruins lose the 5 p.m. game, they would have another shot for the title at 7. Bear River had seven errors in the game but starting pitcher Maddie Phelps kept the Panthers in check with a five-hit game until senior Erin Nichol relieved her in the seventh. Nichol sat Benicia down in order for the save. Despite the lapses in the field, Benicia?s lone run was earned. The Panthers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the first when Brittany Bosscawen led off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball and was hit in by Kendall Core?s single to right field. The Bruins left four runners on base through the first four innings but found their stroke in the top of the fifth. Thill?s bunt crept up the third base line and she reached first before the Panthers could throw the ball. Ceo was hit by a pitch and senior third baseman Cambria Holcomb delivered an RBI single that chopped over the third baseman?s head to give Bear River a 2-1 lead. Benicia intentionally walked senior catcher Alyssa Reina, the Pioneer Valley League?s Most Valuable Player, and two batters later Jenny Astwood smashed a two-RBI single up the middle to give Bear River a 4-1 cushion. ?Just the old adage of working hard and never giving up,? said Bear River coach Duane Zauner, who will retire after this season. ?We could have folded there. We struggled fielding the ball the first couple of innings but Maddie did just an outstanding job staying focused and then we got to Erin in the last inning. ?I think in the first couple of innings we had the nerves, knowing what?s in sight but then again Ali in the No. 9 spot, what can I say?? Astwood finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Phelps picked up the win in six innings with one strikeout and one walk. The win not only gave Bear River a chance at its first Division III title after it won four consecutive titles in Division IV from 2007-2010, but set the stage for Zauner to end his coaching tenure on top. ?Winning five in six (years) would be just unbelievable,? Zauner said.