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Playoff hopes boosted
Jode Johnson provided a dramatic end to a pivotal Valley Oak League varsity softball game on Tuesday, April 28 at Ceres High.

The junior shortstop hit a walk-off, three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, rallying the Bulldogs to an 8-6 victory over East Union.

"She's on fire right now," head coach Donnie Donaldson said. "She's ripping the daylights out of the ball."

The Lancers took a 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh.

Ceres High stormed back in the bottom half of the inning behind the clutch hitting of Johnson, Ryan Norton and Shea Farriester. Norton lined a single off East Union pitcher Kourtni McCall's shin. Farriester's bloop single hit the right-field foul line. Jode lined McCall's second pitch over the center-field fence, trotted around the bases and stomped on home plate with both feet before celebrating with her teammates and coaches.

"It was a laser," Donaldson said. "I didn't think it was going to go out."

Ceres High totaled 13 hits and struck out five times on offense.

Johnson batted 3-for-4 with a homer, triple and four RBIs.

Norton doubled, singled and drove in one run in three at-bats.

Mika Johnson contributed a double, a single, a stolen base and two runs.

Taiylor Sakurada added two singles and one run.

Kaycee Creek, Ceres High's freshman ace pitcher, scattered eight hits with six strikeouts and five walks.

The Bulldogs defeated host Sonora 10-0 on Wednesday and lost 6-1 to visiting Oakdale on Monday, May 4.

Ceres High is closing in on its 24th straight playoff appearance. The Bulldogs currently sit in a four-way tie for first place with Oakdale, East Union and Sierra at 9-3 with two games remaining. The top two teams advance to the postseason.

"The girls are happy to be in this position right now," Donaldson said. "Three weeks ago, everybody wrote us off."

Vaneza Hoover, Ceres High's ace pitcher and a major contributor on offense, was dismissed from the team for unspecified disciplinary reasons three games into the VOL season.

The Bulldogs regrouped by winning seven of eight league games to remain in the hunt for a postseason berth.

Creek has filled in admirably at pitcher for Ceres High. Just about every player increased their batting average, including Farriester, Norton, Jode Johnson and Amanda Lampley.

"All the girls have stepped up," Donaldson said. "That's what the difference is. We're peaking."