BURBANK — Eager to begin defense of its CIF Southern Section Division VI championship, the members of the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team demonstrated Tuesday why they might be in good position to repeat.
Backed by a relentless offensive attack, top-seeded Bell-Jeff finished with 20 hits en route to a 21-2 home victory against Liberty Christian in a first-round game at Gross Park. The game was called in the top of the seventh inning after a Liberty Christian player suffered what appeared to be an ankle or leg injury while sliding safely into home plate.
"It was just a matter of time before we were going to get our offense going," said Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo, whose team improved to 14-4-2 and captured the Santa Cruz League championship. "That said, you can't go into any game taking the other team lightly.
"We were able to put together some good at-bats. They know how to win. Who knows? Maybe the next game will be closer."
Bell-Jeff will next face Alverno, which defeated California Lutheran, 13-3 on Tuesday, in a second-round game Thursday at a site to be determined. Liberty Christian finished 8-5.
Leading the surge for Bell-Jeff were Cristina Colon and Mia Acosta, both of whom hit inside-the-park home runs. Colon finished with three hits and four runs batted in. Acosta collected four hits and drove in six runs, including a grand slam in the fifth to give the Guards a 20-0 advantage.
In the circle, Acosta, a reigning All-Area selection, yielded six hits and struck out seven.
Colon, a third baseman, said the Guards looked for a breakthrough effort against Liberty Christian.
"As a team, we were looking for a fast start," said Colon, who had a run-scoring single in the first to make it 2-0 before hitting a three-run home run in the third to pad the lead, 11-0. "We have some very good hitters and we have a huge opportunity being the No. 1 seed."
Bell-Jeff also received a two-run home run from Samantha Casarez in the fourth to make it 13-0. In addition, the Guards received three hits from Tiffany Galindo,
Florencio Galindo praised Colon's offensive effort.
"She was impressive," Galindo said. "She came up huge for us several times and she's somebody who knows how to make contact at the right times."
The seventh inning proved to be uneventful and painful for Liberty Christian, which received an at-large berth after finishing second in the four-team San Joaquin League.
Liberty Christian lost a pair of players to injuries with the game already well out of reach. Lauren Burley led off with an infield single and sustained a shoulder injury while swinging. She was removed from the game and had her arm placed in a sling.
The game's final play occurred with Liberty Christian's Natalie Small suffering what appeared to be a left ankle or leg injury after she slid home safely to cap the scoring. Small remained on the ground in pain for several minutes before receiving medical treatment from paramedics and then being taken to an area hospital.
"You just hope and pray that she is well," Galindo said.
Follow Charles Rich on Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich .