Quite a few people can still remember the Tracy High softball team’s Cinderella run to the 2005 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I tournament championship game. Some of them, as it turns out, live in Elk Grove.
“I was pretty nervous because it’s ‘Tracy, Tracy, Tracy — oh, you know they’re awesome,’” said Elk Grove junior pitcher Allie Crump, minutes after allowing only three hits and a seventh-inning run while striking out 14 in a 3-1 defeat of the San Joaquin Athletic Association champs at the Tracy Softball Complex on Tuesday.
“Freshman year in the playoffs (that 2005 season), we played them and lost. I was ready for them.”
The Thundering Herd (9-1 Delta Valley League, 16-8-1 overall), who face St. Mary’s in the first round of the playoffs Saturday at the Sacramento Softball Complex, proved the toughest challenge for Tracy (10-0 SJAA, 23-3) since a 1-0 loss to Clovis on April 13 during the NorCal Classic.
The Bulldogs didn’t get a handle on Crump’s riseball-changeup combination until the seventh inning — though a shoulder injury to catcher Nikki Moreno in the sixth kept her from running to first and negated one would-be tally. And while Tracy ace Jenni Holtz struck out 14 and allowed only four hits, one was a wind-assisted home run and another was a run scored from second on a passed ball.
Holtz was her calm self despite the home run — the best-hit ball all day, by far — but the Tracy hitters weren’t. Crump retired numerous batters on three pitches, with Bulldog bats flailing at high risers and low-and-away curves.
“Everyone was just swinging at the junk — we need to learn to stay off that,” said senior infielder Samantha Whisman, who reached on an error and scored Tracy’s run off a Stephanie Fisher pinch-hit RBI single. “But it was good that we lost. … I think today was an eye-opener for what’s going to be there Saturday. Our heads were getting big, we were getting pretty cocky. This will set us back.”
That was the plan all along, according to Tracy coach Greg Smith.
“It shows us what we need to do and that we can do it,” he said, noting that the game ended with the winning run at the plate once the Tracy hitters adjusted to superior pitching. “It keeps us humble, because anyone can knock anyone off. The No. 1 example of that is what we did two years ago.”
Tracy plays Atwater at noon Saturday.