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Dawgs lose 6-4 to Rams in Division-II playoffs
Ceres High’s softball team 2023
Ceres High’s softball team posted a 15-8 overall record, finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Western Athletic Conference standings with an 11-3 mark and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs this season. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Ceres High’s upset-minded softball team put a major scare into St. Mary’s in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs last week.

The 14th-seeded Bulldogs cut a six-run deficit to two in the final inning before losing 6-4 to the third-seeded Rams on May 16 at Stockton’s Arnaiz Stadium.

“We made it interesting,” Ceres High head coach Mike Corsaut said. “We finally strung some hits together. I’m really proud of the girls for not giving up. They battled.”

Added Bulldogs’ senior shortstop Sehren Martinez: “We were pretty confident going into the game. We’re similar teams. We were expecting a good game. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”

Ceres High amassed a 15-8 overall record, finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Western Athletic Conference (11-3) and qualified for the playoffs for the second straight season.

The Bulldogs have won seven league titles in past 10 years.

St. Mary’s (17-6-3, 12-3-0) shut out 11th-seeded Bear Creek in the quarterfinals and will face No. 2 Whitney in the semifinals.

The Rams tied for first place in Tri-City Athletic League.

“Words can’t describe how proud I am of this team,” Corsaut said. “We met two of our goals. We battled all year. We’ll be better next season. We’re losing one senior that starts for us. We have a loaded JV team. I’m excited.”

“This season was different,” Martinez said. “I saw us blend together as a team. It took us a while. I feel like we should have won league solo. We had the talent. It would have been cool going to the second round of playoffs but things happen.”

Ceres High totaled nine hits, while St. Mary’s collected seven during last week’s playoff matchup.

All six of the Rams’ runs were unearned as the Bulldogs tied a season-high for errors in a single game with six.

“You can’t do that in the playoffs,” Corsaut said. “You have to make the routine plays. It was uncharacteristic.”

“The errors were the difference in the game,” Martinez added. “All of us could have played better.”

Sophomore Ava Montesdeoca led the way on offense as she batted 3-for-4 with one double, two RBIs and one run.

Martinez batted 2-for-4 with one double and one RBI.

Sophomore Illianna Saldana and freshman Elizabeth Figueroa both batted 1-for-3 with one run.

Junior Makenna Azevedo knocked in one run.

Freshman Makaela Brown scored once.

Sophomore Nani Sagapolu and freshman Bella Bravo both singled.

“I played for St. Mary’s coach and with a couple of their girls (as a guest player in the summer of 2021) during travel ball,” Martinez said. “Getting to share the field with them during my final high-school game was fun.”

Sophomores Alize Cole and Kylie Bond split time at pitcher against St. Mary’s.

Bond (9-2) started.

She surrendered three unearned runs and five hits with one strikeout and one walk in two innings.

Cole (6-5) allowed three unearned runs and two hits with four strikeouts and no walks while tossing four innings of relief.

“They did a great job this year,” Corsaut said. “It was a good combination between the two of them.”

Ceres High tallied all four of its runs in the top of the seventh inning versus St. Mary’s.

Montesdeoca’s two-run double to left-center field with the bases loaded cut the deficit to 6-2.

Saldana scored from third on Azevedo’s sacrifice bunt.

Martinez plated Montesdeoca with a single to left field.

Martinez advanced to second on the throw home and Cole struck out to end the game.

“That shows the tenacity and fight they’ve had all year long,” Corsaut said. “They were fighting for each other.”

“I wish we could have strung some hits together earlier in the game,” he added.

“We definitely played more loose in the last inning,” Martinez stated. “When you have fun playing, that’s when you play your best. We went into the game too serious.”

Ceres High has a bright future according to Corsaut.

Five Bulldog players will be lost to graduation, including starters Martinez and reserves Natalie Gomes, Emma Johnson, Tatum George and Haylee Mann.

Martinez, a standout shortstop, batted .554 this season with two homers, seven triples, 11 doubles, 31 RBIs, 32 runs and eight stolen bases.

“Sehren means so much to the program,” Corsaut said. “She leads by example. She loves the game.”

Martinez starred on Ceres High’s softball team for four seasons.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Martinez, who will continue her playing career at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “But I’m excited for what’s next.”