Enterprise pitcher Shelby Keltner attempts to throw out a runner during the Hornets’ game against Chico High Friday in Chico. (Matt Bates — Enterprise-Record)
CHICO — Shelby Keltner’s last start in the circle ended with a 14-strikeout performance to top Las Plumas.
Keltner, the senior pitcher for the Enterprise High softball team, was efficient once again limiting the hard-hitting heart of the order from the Chico High softball team.
However, it was the bottom of the order that did the most damage as the top-seeded Panthers prevailed 3-1 over No. 5 Enterprise on Friday afternoon at Chico.
“The bottom half of the lineup came up with some really clutch hits,” said Chico head coach Andy Wahl. “Those are the little things we’ve been doing all year that maybe haven’t gotten noticed because the top half of our lineup has been so powerful. When one’s not going, the others pick them up and it was just one of those days.”
Keltner allowed three runs, scattered eight hits and walked one and struck out seven in the circle.
The win sends the defending section champions to the title game to face off against crosstown rival Pleasant Valley High.
The championship game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at Chico High.
Taylor Culp tossed four shutout innings, scattering four hits and striking out three. Culp then handed the ball to Marissa Woolsey in the fifth, who struck out three and allowed no hits and one unearned run.
The Panthers relied on small ball to get on the board.
Angelica Jacaboni, the junior Panther hitting eighth, took her first at-bat since May 3.
On a full count with two outs in the second inning, Jacaboni jumped on a pitch and sent it into left center field for a base hit to plate Savannah Auer for the Panthers’ first run of the game. Auer had reached on a bunt base hit, stole second and was able to score.
“I haven’t bat in a while so I was ready,” Jacaboni said. “I knew it was my time to just go for it. I was waiting for my pitch. I knew the left side had a hole open.”
Chico remained ahead 1-0 before adding another run in the fourth inning. After two quick outs, Chico’s Allie Whitfield drew a walk. Then Jacaboni had her second hit of the game with a line drive up the middle.
Kylah Cooke, batting ninth in the order, flipped an RBI double to plate Whitfield and give the Panthers a two-run cushion.
Then in the fifth inning, Chico added an insurance run. This time it came off the bat of Maggie Smith, who drove a solo home run to left field just past her father and brother, who were watching beyond the fence.
“Maggie is such a hard-working young lady and I’m just proud to be her coach. She deserved it,” Wahl said. “Right off the bat and it was gone. I’m just so happy she got to do that.”
Enterprise trimmed the lead down to 3-1 when Autumn Campbell led of the sixth with a base hit to right. Two batters later, Campbell came around to score when the throw home from third baseman Auer hit Campbell on the basepath.
In the seventh with one out, Khloe Forrister reached on an error. Then center fielder Macy Spearman raced in to catch a fly ball then doubled up Forrister to end the game and send Chico to the section final.
It’ll be the third time Chico and PV square off this season. The Panthers took both matchups 11-6 and 17-4 earlier in the year.
But the Vikings were able to reclaim the lead against Red Bluff and hold on for a 6-3 win in the other semifinal.
“We played them earlier in the season and that is not a team to overlook. They’ve gotten better and better. They always put runs up,” Wahl said. “We’re going to have to do the same. We’re going to have to outscore them, out defense them and out pitch them.”
Chico 3, Enterprise 1
Enterprise 000 001 0 — 1 5 0
Chico 010 110 x — 3 7 2
Keltner and Forrister; Culp, Woolsey (5) and Reid.
Chico: Smith 2×3, HR. Jacoboni 2×3. Cooke 2B.
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