STOCKTON — No. 2 Linden churned out a dozen hits to cruise to a big lead and another strong pitching performance by freshman Hannah Ortega sealed an 8-2 victory over No. 3 Hughson in the second round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs Wednesday at the Arnaiz Softball Complex.

No. 1 Escalon also won 9-1 against No. 5 Hilmar to advance to today’s semifinal against Linden in the double-elimination round at the Arnaiz Stadium field at 5 p.m.

Hughson and Hilmar will also play at 5 p.m. in the loser’s bracket.

Ortega struck out the first two batters she faced and finished with eight total and gave up just five hits in her complete game victory for the Lions (22-6).

The Huskies (11-11) rallied with four seeing-eye singles in the fourth to push two runs across home plate to cut the lead to 6-2 and had the bases loaded hoping for more.

But Ortega struck out Kali Gosek to end the threat and then retired nine consecutive batters to get the Lions into today’s semifinal.

“There’ve been a couple of times where that’s happened before but we just pick each other up,” said Ortega, whose record moved to 19-4 from the circle. “It’s really nice when our team gets runs early. You can’t take a break but you can relax more (pitching with a lead) knowing you’ve got runs in.”

The Lions got clutch hitting from senior Amber Andrews, who went 3 for 3, including a two-out, two-RBI single to score teammates Carly Lucchetti and Gabby Herrera for 2-0 lead in the first.

“The whole team was pumped up before the game,” Andrews said. “We always have a lot of fun out here (playing softball) so we might as well win.”

Linden senior Brooke Bryant went 3 for 3 with two RBI, including a second inning solo homer over the 205-foot sign on the centerfield fence off Hughson hurler Megan Shuayto for a 3-0 Linden lead.

“I knew I wanted to get up early in the count and I just wanted to swing hard,” said Bryant, who notched her second homer of the season. “It was right in my sweet spot and I went for it and got lucky.”

Lucchetti went 3 for 4 at the plate and stole two bases, her team-leading 40th and 41st of the year, while sophomore teammate Herrera was 2 for 3, including a double and two runs.

“When a challenge is presented to these kids they’ve showed grit,” said Linden coach Mark Miller, whose Lions have won three straight games. “It really shows when they’ve been beaten they come right back the next game. Hughson’s a really good hitting team. We’re just hoping to keep it together.”

Escalon 9, Hilmar 1

The No. 1 Cougars smacked 14 hits to race past the No. 5 Yellowjackets 9-1 led by Escalon junior Arabella Strach, who hit a pair of two-run home runs in Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division V tilt.

Strach went 2 for 4 with 4 RBI for Escalon (19-7), while teammates Molly Brown and Hailie Webster went 3 for 4, freshman Malia Babasa was 2 for 4 with a double and RBI, while sophomore Hannah Boyd reached base four times on a single, two walks and hit by pitch.

Cougar pitchers Chardae Hoskins and Kayla Kemp combined to throw a three-hitter against Hilmar (18-8), striking out five and walking four in the win.

“I wasn’t even thinking about (hitting home runs),” said Strach, who hit her ninth and 10th home runs of the year in the win. “I just wanted to put the ball in play. (Our two pitchers) both contributed by getting easy outs for us and did a good job making the batters mishit the ball. We all worked as a team.”

Division VI

No. 3 Argonaut edged No. 2 Millenium 7-5 in Division VI action at the Arnaiz Softball Complex, while No. 1 Woodland Christian cruised past No. 4 Vacaville Christian 6-0.

Argonaut will play Woodland Christian Friday at 5 p.m. 

Division VII

No. 2 Ripon Christian whipped No. 3 Big Valley Christian 12-2 and will play No. 1 Stone Ridge Christian, a 10-0 winner over No. 4 Foresthill, in a semifinal at Arnaiz today at 5 p.m. 

Division II

No. 6 St. Mary’s defeated No. 14 Rodriguez 9-8 and will play No. 2 Elk Grove, a 1-0 winner over No. 10 Whitney, on Saturday.