LIZTON -- With a late start time for their sectional semifinal game with Cascade, the Cloverdale softball team took care of business early, scoring three runs in the first inning on their way to a 5-2 victory Thursday.
Kayla Shepherd and Sam Smith got the Clovers started right with a pair of infield singles in the bottom of the first. Paige Gutierrez' sacrifice bunt moved them over before Martika Byrd plated Shepherd with yet another infield single.
Two batters later, Whitney Bond crushed a single to the right-center field gap to score Smith and Byrd.
The offensive performance in the tournament has come at the right time for the Clovers, who struggled with the bats late in the regular season.
"For some reason, we just struggled with the bats, but for the last two days, we just bunted and hit the ball well against good pitchers, too" said Clover coach Chuck Mowery. "Hopefully we can keep it going."
The three-run cushion was all freshman pitcher Gutierrez would need, on her way to a three-hit performance whose main blemish was a two-run fourth.
The inning began with a double from Cadet leadoff hitter Brittany Sallee. From there, things got a bit off track, with an error on a popup and two straight walks.
Having allowed a run, though, Gutierrez righted the ship, getting three straight outs with an additional run coming on a groundout.
Although an error helped get his team into the jam, the coach also credited his team's defense for getting them out of trouble.
"The played solid defense. To be a good softball team, you have to basically pitch, play defense and put runs on the board. We did that," Mowery said. "We've really cut down on the errors in the last couple of games, and that's really helped us."
The Clover's insurance runs came in the third and fifth innings.
Gutierrez led off the third with a double and scored on an error off the bat of Byrd.
In the fifth, Breegan Andersen's two-out triple began the threat, and she scored on a single by Brianna Hoff.
It was a well-rounded night at the plate for Cloverdale, with 10 hits off the bats of eight different hitters. Andersen and Gutierrez led the way with two hits each. Byrd and Bond each drove in two runs.
Gutierrez took the victory, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks. She fanned eight Cadets.
Taylor Hueston was the losing pitcher, allowing five runs, 10 hits and five walks while striking out six.
The Clovers move on to the sectional title game with Monrovia, who defeated Speedway 8-1 to advance.
Mowery's plan for the game is simple.
"I just hope we keep playing defense and hit the ball and pitch the ball well," he concluded.
The Clovers and Bulldogs face off at 6 p.m. Monday at Tri-West.
Girls' Softball Sectional #46
Cascade 000 200 0 -- 2 3 2
Cloverdale 301 010 X -- 5 10 1
WP -- Gutierrez
LP -- Hueston
2B -- Sallee (Ca), Gutierrez (Cl)
3B -- Andersen (Cl)
Next game -- Cloverdale will face Monrovia in the sectional title game 6 p.m. Monday at Tri-West.