Softball showdown for Dixon

Luck has turned its back on three of the five No. 1 divisional seeds in the Northern California softball playoffs. Two top seeds, St. Francis in Division I and Pleasant Valley in Division II, were knocked out in the first round. College Park drew a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed in Division IIII and lost to No. 4 Sutter on Thursday.

College Park’s departure means No. 3 Dixon, which pulled out a 3-2 win over No. 7 Capuchino on Thursday, will host the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday. This is Dixon’s second appearance in the regional finals. The Rams were seeded No. 1 in Division IV two years ago and lost to No. 2 Monterey in the championship game.

Felesha LePenske hustles to turn a sacrifice bunt into an infield single in Dixon’s 3-2 win Thursday.

It was also two years ago when Sutter was the top seed in Division IV and claimed the title with a 2-1 victory over Central despite not scoring after the first inning. The Huskies did not score after the second inning Thursday in eliminating College Park to run their record to 29-0. Sutter is 86-3 since 2022.

Sutter and Dixon need to get acquainted because the Huskies are moving from the Pioneer Valley League to join the Rams in the Golden Empire. The GEL is adding Sutter, El Camino (California Athletic) and Natomas (Greater Sacramento) and losing Pioneer (Monticello Empire), Mesa Verde (Sierra Delta) and Mira Loma (Pioneer Valley).

Dixon is 22-4 and has won nine consecutive games since a 2-1 loss to Vacaville on April 24. Vacaville was seeded fifth in the section Division II playoffs and won its first two games by a combined score of 32-2 before losing 6-5 to No. 1 Tracy in 10 innings. Tracy lost to No. 7 Rocklin in the title game last Saturday.

The Rams managed just four hits Thursday, the biggest being a two-run double by Olivia Gomez with two outs in the third inning. Caitlyn Hendershot led off with a double against Capuchino’s Lola Sierra. Audrey Graham walked and Felesha LePenske hustled to turn her sacrifice bunt into an infield single to load the bases.

Sierra then walked Ashley Garcia to force in a run, but the left-hander regained her control to strike out Camryn Elliott and Emily Morris. Just when it appeared Sierra would escape the inning with minimal damage, Gomez ripped a double to right-center field to drive in Graham and LePenske. Freshman Lily Thomas relieved Sierra and got Aemonn Rosenberg to ground out to halt the three-run uprising.

The challenge for Dixon on Saturday will be trying to muster any offense against Sutter pitcher Olivia Bauer. The senior ranks second in the state with 24 victories and has an 0.63 ERA, allowing 18 runs in 134 innings. Bauer has struck out 194 and walked just 16. Those numbers led to the right-hander signing with Boise State.

Bauer is also lethal at the plate with a .457 batting average and 35 RBI. She is one of seven players with at least 30 RBI this season for Sutter, which is averaging 12 runs per game. Senior Alexa Carino is tied for fourth in the state with 57. Garcia (46) is the only Dixon player with more than 30 RBI. The Rams are averaging nine runs per game and have managed to win two regional games with a total of four.

One run was enough for Dixon to beat San Rafael on Tuesday as LePenske held the Bulldogs to one hit and struck out 12. The senior right-hander allowed seven hits and struck out four against Capuchino, which scored twice in the sixth inning to make Dixon fans a bit nervous. Their nerves will be tested again on Saturday.