Two days removed from nearly knocking off top-seeded Pioneer, Ceres High's fourth-seeded varsity softball program saw its 2015 season come to an end following a 5-4 loss to No. 6 Vanden in a Sac-Joaquin Section Divison-III playoff elimination game on May 18 in Sacramento.
The Bulldogs tied for fifth place with a 2-2 record at the 16-team tournament.
"It's a pretty good accomplishment," Ceres High junior standout hitter/shortstop Nicole Bates said. "But we're definitely not satisfied by any means."
"It's always a disappointment when you lose," Bulldogs head coach Angela Durossette said. "We didn't play as good as we should have."
Ceres High compiled a 22-9 overall record and placed first in the Western Athletic Conference (10-2) for the second straight season.
Vanden (23-10) lost 7-4 to eventual section-champion East Union (30-3) in the semifinals.
Second-seeded East Union topped Pioneer twice (12-1, 17-3) to capture the Division-III crown.
Ceres High lost 7-1 to East Union at the St. Mary's Tournament during the regular season.
"I saw a lot of positive things this year," Durossette said. "The girls performed well. They were fun to be around."
The Bullldogs posted a team batting average of .179 (5 of 28) versus Vanden.
Ceres High struck out just four times but stranded seven runners on base.
Bulldog sophomore Rayohna Sagapolu finished 1-for-3 from the plate with one homer, three RBIs, one run and one walk.
Juniors Nicole Bates and Sabrina Baisdon both singled and scored once.
Junior Jessica Arreola tallied one run and two walks.
Junior Ariel Knights singled twice.
"We didn't hit their pitcher really well," Durossette said. "We just didn't execute on offense."
"We didn't string together enough hits," Bates added.
Ceres High trailed 5-0 through four innings of play.
Vanden scored once in the top of the second inning, and twice in both the third and fourth.
"I was surprised," Durossette said. "They swung the bats really well."
Down 5-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Sagapolu hit a three-run homer to cut the deficit to one.
"That put some life into us," Durossette said. "I honestly thought we were going to come back and win."
Sagapolu and fellow sophomore Callie Nunes split time at pitcher against Vanden.
Rayohna started and picked up just her second loss of the year.
Sagapolu allowed five runs (three earned) and six hits with two strikeouts and two walks in four innings.
Nunes tossed three solid innings of relief.
Callie surrendered no runs and two hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
"They're both returning next year," Durossette said. "They're both very good."
Ceres High will look to continue its winning tradition in 2016. The Bulldogs will be vying for their fifth consecutive playoff berth and third straight WAC championship.
Ceres High and Pacheco shared the conference title this past season.
"I'm looking forward to next year," Durossette said. "We're going to be strong again. Obviously, we'd like to go undefeated the entire year."
"I don't think there will be any added pressure," said Bates, who will return for a fourth season of varsity softball, along with Baisdon, Arreola, Mackenzie Veuve and Mahlena O'Neal. "We have good pitching. We just have to play defense and hit. We'll be focused."