BURBANK — For a group of seniors on the Bellarmine-Jefferson High softball team, there wasn’t much time to get prepared for Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Division VI quarterfinal game against St. Monica Catholic.
Six members of the squad took part in their graduation ceremony earlier Saturday at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Nearly two hours following the commencement, the players arrived at Gross Park set to keep Bell-Jeff’s drive alive for a second consecutive championship.
With the contributions of seniors Mia Acosta and Cristina Colon leading the way, Bell-Jeff posted a 1-0 victory to advance to the semifinals against visiting Cantwell Sacred Heart at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Acosta pitched a one-hitter and Colon provided the lone run with a first-inning sacrifice fly.
“It was a bit hectic,” said Acosta, a reigning All-Area honoree who three strikeouts. “One minute we were graduating and taking pictures before getting here to play a game.
“It was a big day, but I just went out there [to the circle] and didn’t try to psyche myself out.”
Bell-Jeff, which won the Santa Cruz League championship before posting postseason victories against Liberty Christian and Alverno in the first two rounds of the playoffs, improved to 16-4-2. St. Monica Catholic, which received a nice pitching effort from Katie Kaufman, finished 20-7.
Bell-Jeff didn’t waste time getting started at the plate against St. Monica Catholic, which received an at-large berth out of the Camino Real League. With one out, senior Samantha Casarez singled and Acosta doubled. Colon then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Casarez.
“I was able to do the job there,” Colon said. “We were just trying to go out there and take an early lead.
“After graduation, we were determined from the get-go to play our hardest. We needed to come out strong.”
The Mariners provided the Guards with a tough test. Fortunately for Bell-Jeff, it was able to shut down the Mariners’ speed, including Casarez throwing out a runner on a steal attempt in the third.
Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo said the Guards thrived with Acosta in the circle.
“She was amazing,” said Galindo, whose team finished with four hits. “She’s celebrating graduation one minute and then she finds a way to pitch tough and help the team find a way to win.
“St. Monica Catholic has got a very scrappy team. They have a lot of speed. We had to make some good plays defensively to keep the lead. Now, we go to the semifinals and it’s going to be another tough team that we will be up against.”
Kaufman had the only hit for the Mariners, a clean single in the fifth with one out. Kaufman was then erased on a force out at second on a ball hit by Kailey Paris. Paris then stole second and tried to advance to third before a perfect throw from senior center fielder Priscilla Panizo got Paris.
St. Monica Catholic had one more good scoring opportunity in the seventh. Matiana Hebert led off by reaching on an error by the shortstop. Acosta then got a force out before notching a strikeout and ground ball to first.
Casarez had two hits for Bell-Jeff. Kaufman retired the final 11 batters she faced.