Bullard bests Sanger, Apaches eye redemption in playoffs

Knights clinch tie for title with 5-2 victory as Apaches shift focuses to postseason seeding

Bullard High’s JuJu Martinez dives safely into third base during the Knights’ 5-2 victory over Sanger High in a  County Metro Athletic Conference softball game in Sanger on May 3. Martinez collected three hits and played stellar defense in center field as Bullard moved two games ahead of the Apaches in the CMAC title chase. (Jon Earnest)
Bullard High’s JuJu Martinez dives safely into third base during the Knights’ 5-2 victory over Sanger High in a County Metro Athletic Conference softball game in Sanger on May 3. Martinez collected three hits and played stellar defense in center field as Bullard moved two games ahead of the Apaches in the CMAC title chase. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published May 7, 2024  • 
11:00 am

SANGER – Now that its hopes for a County Metro Athletic Conference championship dashed, the Sanger High softball team is shifting its focus toward the fast-approaching Central Section playoffs.

The Apaches (18-7, 6-2) dropped a 5-2 home decision to Bullard High (19-6, 8-0) on May 3, its second loss in CMAC play to a Knights squad which clinched a tie for the title. Sanger, based in Division II, is currently seeded in the lower half of the D-1 bracket entering this week’s closing games at Edison (May 7) and home against Madera (Thursday, May 9 at 5:30 p.m.).

Apaches head coach Erica Pennington praised Bullard’s team for its accomplishments, but is looking forward to the stretch run for her team heading into the postseason.

“Excited for the week (ahead),” she said. “We had two extra inning games back to back with Edison and Madera last round, and feel we have been playing better since. These are two competitive teams to face before the playoffs, which will be beneficial in the long run.”

Sanger never was able to catch up from a two-run Bullard outburst in the first inning, with the visitors collecting 12 hits on the afternoon (three by leadoff hitter JuJu Martinez) and riding the solid pitching of Emily Hinchey who allowed five hits in a complete game effort.

Sanger’s best chance of catching Bullard came in the fifth inning, when a walk to Jayden Herrera and wild pitch was followed by Emma Hernandez’s single for the team’s first hit. But as Hernandez took second on the hit with aggressive baserunning, Herrera broke for home and was tagged out at the plate on a close play.

Audrey Ortiz struck out swinging but reached base on a passed ball as Hernanez took third. The Apaches then cut the deficit in half when Ortiz stole second and Hernandez successfully dashed home on a double steal. The rally short-circuited when Ortiz was cut down at third on a ground ball by Sam Guerra and Taryn East grounded into a fielder’s choice.

Bullard quickly countered the Sanger rally, scoring twice in the sixth on Tabitha Andrews’ run-scoring triple followed by a wild pitch. Sanger closed it to 4-2 on Alyssa Martinez’s RBI single scoring Sierra Wyrick, then the Knights closed out the scoring with a sing;e run in the seventh.

Other Sanger hits came from starting pitcher Amber Estrada and sophomore Ariannah Cardoso. Estrada struck out five and walked two in five-plus innings of work while Hernandez fanned two in 1.2 innings of relief.

Jon Earnest
Reporter