The only team to win on the road in Tuesday's quarter-final round, the fifth-seeded Bears advance to play at No. 1 East Nicolaus Thursday, May 18.
It wasn’t just any old Northern Section team Mount Shasta High School defeated in its playoff opener Tuesday.
It was Durham at Durham.
The Bears rallied to score 4 runs in the top of the 7th inning, then held on to win it 8-7 after the Trojans scored twice in their final at-bats.
Durham, the school Mount Shasta split with in the 2016 (win) and 2017 (loss) NSCIF girls basketball championship games, had the tying run at third base and the potential winning run at first when the game ended.
It ended when senior Kacey Cain, one of the Bears who has been a key member of both the basketball and softball teams in recent years, caught a fly ball in centerfield for the third out.
In the top of the 7th, Cain reached base on a fielders choice after Sydney Scott got hit by a pitch. Cain then scored the tying run on a clutch two-out double by senior catcher and soon-to-be NCAA Division III student-athlete Sydney Cross.
Three more clutch hits followed: a run-scoring single by junior pitcher Jolene Rhoades, a single by senior left fielder Leslie Rhoades, and a triple by another basketball all-leaguer, senior Miranda Zanni, who played first base.
Zanni’s hit brought home an insurance run that proved to be the winning run when Durham scored twice on 4 singles in the bottom of the 7th.
Mount Shasta coach Greta Jones said the Bears got a break when Durham held its lead runner at third after the last of those 7th inning hits.
“She could have scored,” Jones said, adding that she and coach Blake Powers glanced at each other as if to say, we got a break.
Seeded No. 5 in the six-team NSCIF Division 5 playoff bracket, the Bears (14-7 overall) were the only road team to advance to the semifinals.
They’re scheduled to play on the road again at No. 1 East Nicolaus (25-5) Thursday at 4 p.m. The other semifinal has No. 3 Etna (20-4) playing at No. 2 Colusa (28-4).
Semifinal winners will play for the section championship Saturday at the home of the higher seed.
A year ago, Mount Shasta was the No. 4 seed when it lost in the semifinal round, 3-1, at No. 1 East Nicolaus, and East Nicolaus then won the championship by defeating No. 2 Colusa, 1-0.
Jones said she expects a similar game against East Nicolaus Thursday. One key for the Bears, she said, is “no errors.”
Two years ago, the Bears were the No. 5 seed when they lost in the first round at No. 4 Durham, and Durham went all the way to the championship game before losing, 5-4, to Colusa.
In volleyball, too, the Bears have had their problems with Durham in recent years. “I think we lost every time we went to Durham in my 10 years as volleyball coach,” Jones said.
She noted how evenly-matched the Bears and Trojans were in Tuesday’s softball game.
Mount Shasta finished with 9 hits to Durham’s 10. Both teams committed 5 errors, and both left 6 runners on base.
Durham scored in the 1st inning and led 1-0 until the 3rd, when Scott tripled and scored on a ground out by Cain to tie it.
The Bears took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 4th when Leslie Rhoades singled and scored, and sophomore shortstop Lily Hitchcock reached on an error and scored on an error.
Errors also played a role in Durham’s run in the bottom of the 4th, which cut the Bears’ lead to 3-2.
Cain tripled and scored in the Bears’ half of the 5th to make it 4-2, but Durham scored 2 in the 5th and 1 in the 6th to take a 5-4 lead into the final inning.
Jolene Rhoades struck out 6 and walked none in her complete game pitching victory. She also had a single, scored a run and drove in one.
Leslie Rhoades went 3 for 4 and scored 2 runs; Sydney Cross was 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored; and Sydney Scott, batting ninth in the lineup, had a triple, scored a run, and got hit by that pitch to start the Bears’ 7th inning rally.
Miranda Zanni had a sacrifice to go with her run-scoring triple in the 7th, and Cain tripled and scored 2 runs.
“It was a team effort,” said Jones. “It was exciting. The girls came through.”