Bret Harte’s Bekka Gross stepped into the batter’s box. It was the bottom of the third inning at Angels Camp on Monday afternoon.
Bret Harte's Bekka Gross, 21, gets mobbed at home plate after smashing a third-inning homer over the left field fence in Angels Camp. Gross is currently the No. 4 hitter in the Mother Lode League. AMBER PAPPE/UNION DEMOCRAT
Bret Harte was already up 10-0. But mercy was not on the mind of Gross.
“We’ve been tired of not playing to our potential and we’re tired of losing,” said Gross. “So I was thinking, ‘Give me a pitch and I’m gonna drive it.’ That’s what I had thought on my previous at-bat and that type of thinking had worked back then.”
Back in the second inning, Gross had smacked a ball that did not touch ground until it ricocheted off the left-field fence, 225 feet away — and Gross had herself a stand-up triple.
But once Gross took her third-inning cut, the fence never had a chance. Instead Gross blasted a towering torpedo which sailed far over that left-field fence and landed 255 feet from home plate.
“Oh, yes,” said Bret Harte head coach Heath Lane, “from my vantage point (as third-base coach), I knew that ball was way, way out of here. Bekka hit that ball a long way.”
This was the second-career home run for Gross, a junior.
“On my other home run (earlier this season), I thought it was just a pop out,” said Gross. “Today, I hit this one solid on the sweet spot and I knew it was gone.”
After Gross’ solo tater, Bret Harte tacked on two more third-inning runs and eventually walked off the diamond 13-1 victors.
“The key to this win,” said Gross, “is that everyone on our team played together. This is what we can do when we play as a team.”
All nine Bullfrog starters had at least one hit. Keryn Thompson, Cassidy Davis, Sydney Davis and Sammie Artiaga each had a single and each an RBI.
Also for Bret Harte, Kaielin Gilliland had a triple, C.J. Cobb was 3 for 3 with a double and three RBIs, Lauren Lane was 3 for 3 with two doubles and an RBI, and Taylor O’Connor was 3 for 3 with a double and three RBIs.
“Bret Harte was fired up for the game,” said Bears head coach Ben Watson. “They came out swinging the bat. Hats off to them. They played hard.”
Bret Harte plated five first-inning runs and five more in the second.
“We started to believe in each other today,” said Lauren Lane. “Hitting is contagious. Once one person starts to hit, we all start to hit. We definitely pulled together as a team and our team mood felt like it did during last season.”
In 2011, Bret Harte concluded its regular-season by winning three consecutive contests — each of the do-or-die variety — and earned a postseason berth.
Monday’s win upped Bret Harte’s Mother Lode League record to 3-6 (5-7 overall). Summerville fell to 2-7 in MLL play (4-11 overall).
“We know exactly what we need to do right now,” said O’Connor, “and that’s win. We need wins. Hopefully, this game will get us more confident as a team and we’ll go get those wins.”
O’Connor was superb in the circle on Monday, tossing all five innings, striking out four and yielding only four hits to a high-quality hitting ballclub.
“I actually think that today was the best Taylor has pitched for us all season,” said Gross, Bret Harte’s catcher. “Everything was working for her. Taylor’s changeup was on fire. She kept getting people out with that.”
“It’s great having Bekka behind the plate for me,” said O’Connor. “She always keeps me pumped up. Today, I felt my drop and curve were working perfectly and my changeup was finally working, too.”
“She was dominant all day,” said Watson of O’Connor. “She mixed it up well enough to where she kept our batters off balance. We never really threatened her.”
“All Taylor O’Connor needs right now,” said Coach Lane, “is to be a pitcher who believes in how good she can be. Once she gets beyond that, there will be no limits for her. Right now, she has good command and we’ve just been trying to get her to buy into throwing off-speed pitches — which she did some today and with success.”
For Summerville, Nikki Christie continued her month-long hot streak with a to-the-fence first-inning double and Courtney Robinson — who has been swinging a sweet bat all season — had a fifth-inning single. Ashley Gamber drew two base-on-balls and Taylor Leslie was 2 for 3 with an RBI-double.
“I think we had too many defensive errors in that first inning which put us in a slumping mood and we never got out of it,” said Leslie. “We’ve lost so many league games that we’re in a little slump right now. But all it takes is one win and we can turn it all around.”
“I hope today’s win is the start to us stringing together a few wins in a row,” said Coach Lane. “It was good for us to get a win against someone who is competitive in our league. Our girls have the ability to play well. They’ve just got to believe it.”