Cater’s no-hitter; Gunter’s homer lifts VCA to pair of impressive playoff wins

Lions’ softball squad tops section power Jim Elliot, baseball beats Big Valley
By: Ben Bodding & Steven Wilson - For The Press Tribune
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Despite facing tough teams in the opening round of the CIF-SJS Division VII playoffs Wednesday, both of Valley Christian Academy’s baseball and softball programs emerged with big victories. 

In the 4 p.m. game, VCA’s fifth-seeded softball team hit the road to take on No. 4 seed Jim Elliot Christian, but the road conditions didn’t slow them down. 

The Lions took a 7-0 lead after four innings, before Elliot Christian stormed back in the fifth with eight runs. 

Down, 8-7, after five innings of work, VCA broke the game open with 14 runs on 11 hits in the sixth, including a three-run home run from Cloe Gunter as they roared to a 21-8 opening-round victory in the Sac-Joaquin Section D7 playoffs in Lodi.

“This is the first time we’ve beat Jim Elliot since 2009,” VCA’s coach Shawnda Bowen pointed out. “So that’s huge for our school and our team.”

On top of Gunter’s multi-run jack and her 3-for-5 outing at the plate, the Lions racked up 13 hits including a pair of triples from Megan Woodside triple and Alondra Raya.

The Lions improved to 14-5-1 overall this year with the win and move into the double-elimination portion of the tournament next. VCA will square off against top-seeded Ripon Christian Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton.

"There are no words to describe how proud I am of these girls,” Bowen added, following the game. "We tied Jim Elliot 21-21 after a 3 1/2 hour game early in the season, lost to them in their tournament last month, and then today beat them 21-8 in the first round of playoffs. All of my girls played amazing, and I'm proud to be their coach.”

The victory was the first playoff win in four years for the Lions’ softball program, which took second place in the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League. They are the only SMAL representative in the D7 bracket this year.


Cater tosses no-no against Big Valley

If you thought Corey Cater’s three-hit, 11-strikeout performance against Big Valley Christian in last year’s section title game was impressive, just see what he did this year. 

The right-handed pitcher held No. 8 seed Big Valley Christian without a hit and struck out 14 batters Wednesday night at McAuliffe field as the top-seeded Lions baseball team rolled to a 3-0 victory in the opening round of the CIF-SJS D7 playoffs.

The no-no performance was the first ever for Cater, a senior, who looks to capture his third section championship ring this season.

“That was a great game and a great W for us,” VCA’s coach Brad Gunter Jr., said. “Corey was on tonight. We didn’t need very many runs with him on the bump and (catcher) Caleb Watson called a great game.”

Centerfielder Brooks McKeighen's diving catch in the third inning was the closest Big Valley Christian came to getting a base hit, but even that attempt was foiled. 

The Lions broke open a scoreless battle in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Collin Andrews and a two-run single by David Alway.

With the victory, VCA will advance to the semifinals round where they’ll face Turlock Christian, which beat Western Sierra, 10-6 in their first playoff game. 

The semifinals showdown will occur at McAuliffe on Saturday at noon in the first of a best-of-three series. Venture Academy and Millennium will vie in the other playoff matchup. Venture stopped Leroy Greene, 18-2, and Millennium dumped Holt Academy, 15-4.