The Otay Ranch Mustangs may not have won this year’s Mesa League softball title but they certainly appeared in championship form after defeating the reigning South Bay League champion Chula Vista Spartans Tuesday afternoon in a San Diego Section Division I play-in playoff encounter.
With the win, fifth-seeded Otay Ranch advanced to the double-elimination portion of this year’s post-season tournament, drawing fourth-seeded Poway on Thursday.
Playoff action continues Saturday, as well as Monday and Wednesday of next week, leading up to next Saturday’s section finals at UC San Diego.
“We went 2-2 in the playoffs last year and this year we’re a little stronger,” Mustang coach David Marin said. “We have a better shot this year than last year.”
Josie Bachtell delivered the shot heard around the section on Tuesday with a grand slam home run in the top of the first inning to quickly boost visiting Otay Ranch to a 5-0 lead.
The Mustangs, who rapped out 17 hits in the seven-inning contest, added three runs in the second inning, another in the fourth and two more each in the fifth and seventh innings.
Chula Vista, which was making a return to playoff action for the first time since 1993, scored once in the bottom of the third inning, twice more each in the fourth and seventh frames.
Jonee Rutledge matched Bachtell with four RBI in the contest while Sashel Palacios went three-for-five at the plate with three RBI.
Carlee Wood went four-for-five at the plate, scored four times and drove in two runners.
Maria Aguirre went the first five innings in the pitching circle for the victors while Bachtell closed out the final two innings. The pair combined on a four-hitter.
Each team committed three errors in the contest to make it entertaining to watch as far as base-running went. The visitors were credited with three stolen bases in the game.
Otay Ranch entered Thursday’s first-round game with a 21-9-1 record after finishing 7-3 in Mesa League play.
“We’re playing our best right now after having some injuries,” Marin said. “This season has been one of mish-mash. We’ve had injuries on and off all season. I don’t think I’ve had the same lineup in any 10 games this season. What this has done for us, however, is to build character on the team. The girls play hard for each other.”
Isabella Julio got the start for the Spartans in Tuesday’s playoff game. She tripled in one run while freshman Kaitlyn Tottress drove in two runs with another triple.
Chula Vista finished the season 18-4 after posting a league best 11-1 record.
“It was an amazing season,” Amanda Diaz, who drove in one run in Tuesday’s game. “There are five seniors on the team and we knew it was the last year for us to try to accomplish this.
“As for the team not having a playoff game in 20 years, it was fun to play in it.”
Around the horn
No. 1-ranked Bonita Vista (20-4-1) earned the No. 1 seed in the Division II playoffs and was scheduled to open defense of its division title on Thursday against ninth-seeded Mt. Carmel (12-13).
The Barons closed out a perfect 10-0 league season last Friday with an 8-3 win over visiting Hilltop (0-10, 5-21). Ivana Lopez scored three runs while Hannah Flippen scored twice and Alex Vargas, Aaliyah Jordan and Tianah Hathaway each scored once in support of winning pitcher Izzy Ortiz (16-1).
Defending Division IV champion Mater Dei Catholic (21-7) received the No. 3 seed in defense of its division title, also earning a home game on Thursday. The Crusaders finished 6-4 in Mesa League play, good for third place in the league standings behind Bonita Vista and Otay Ranch.
South Bay League runner-up Montgomery (10-2 in league, 11-8 overall) dropped a 3-0 play-in contest to sixth-seeded Our Lady of Peace (23-3) in Division III action on Tuesday. Lauren Brown fired a no-hitter for OLP with 15 strikeouts.
Olympian, which finished fifth in the Mesa League standings with a 3-7 record, qualified for the Division III playoffs as the No. 9 seed. The Eagles (7-12) handed eighth-seeded University City (10-14) an upset 5-4 loss in nine innings in Tuesday’s play-in round.
In the small schools Division V playoff bracket, 11th-seeded Lutheran (7-11) dropped a 5-0 decision to sixth-seeded Mountain Empire (12-10) in Tuesday’s play-in round.