GRUDGE MATCH WITH NORTH NEXT

After a string of almosts, the Lady Bobcats came through in the clutch Monday night, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the last minute, rallying for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to nip the visiting Lady SaberCats, 2-1.

They got a two-out base hit in the third, fourth, and fifth – to no advantage – and had stranded eight runners in the first six frames, as former Lady ‘Cat Naomi “Monie” Reyes had their number for a shutout heading into the final at-bat.

Through six, Vela had scratched out the only run of the pitcher’s duel, in the fifth on an RBI single by catcher Darissa Buenrostro. And this was a well-played night of softball when it appeared that one might be enough, as defense had been the highlight, i.e., Vela’s Katherine Montero and her two tremendous catches in left field.

But just when it looked like a Lady Sabe upset, the heart of the EHS order came to the dish in the seventh. Amber Reyes started the rally by reaching on an infield hit, arriving at the bag just as did the throw, and this call was bitterly contested by the Blue and Black. After a strikeout, Anngie “Guera” Salinas looped a single to right center, chasing Reyes home to tie the tense tussle. Up came senior star Dezi Marmolejo. After Vela had pitched around her successfully in the fifth, the primetime leader came up large this time, banging a double to left center to put runners at second and third.

Vela, having played so well in a redemption game – after last week’s depressing home whitewashing at the hands of North – had to make a play to stop the bleeding.

It didn’t.

Sophomore first sacker Kristee Salas laid down a slick bunt on the safety squeeze, and once Salinas saw the throw go to first, she had an opening. The try at first to get the runner went past the bag and in sped the Lady ‘Cat catcher with the winning tally.

Coach Ramon Arciba was perplexed but not without hope after EHS went the first six innings without a run. He just challenged his girls to do their thing.

“We had to play at our level, not theirs,” he explained after the narrow but noble escape. “We’ve played some really excellent teams upstate in tournaments so I expect that when we come back home, we can handle these situations. We need to be able to win games like this if we want to go far this season.”

For his part, Vela coach Jon Maples was pleased with the effort of his nine, which was about to clinch the victory until one fatal blink. He said that even with the loss, the Lady Sabes had sent a message.

“We have a young team while EHS has a veteran group, a bunch of seniors,” he said. “We don’t accept moral victories, so this loss will hurt. But at the same time we showed we aren’t going to lie down for any team, and I think we played well enough to win. The girls feel bad because they think they should have won. It definitely shows what we are capable of, and we will learn from this and move on.”

Vela showed improvement after the North loss by hitting the ball well to the opposite field and piling up more intelligent at-bats. But with Marmolejo owning the low and outside corner, it was scoreless through four, Reyes also hurling at top form for Vela. Montero’s diving backhand grab in foul territory in the second was followed by her running catch coming in to end the EHS third.

Marmolejo nearly homered in the fourth but her initially promising drive to center died in the cool Monday air. An inning later, Gabriella Villarreal of Vela singled and eventually scored on the hit from Buenrostro and at that point, 1-0 looked mighty commanding.

In the bottom of the fifth, EHS loaded the bases with two outs but Reyes bowed her back and got out of the jam with a comebacker. EHS’ Reyes had meanwhile come on and would sling the final two innings.

Salinas and Maya Zavala collected two hits each for the Lady Bobcats while Taylor Chavez hammered out a double and triple to get two of Vela’s five safeties. The Lady Sabes dropped to 0-2, 9-7 with the loss but rebounded to tuck away a win later in the week before bring routed, 17-3 by Memorial Thursday to drop to 1-3.

DIAMOND NOTES

North kept cranking along with a pair of wins last week to rise to 4-0 in anticipation of the Tuesday Grudge Match with the Lady Bobcats. Natalie Rodriguez continues to absolutely murder the ball, at .585, with the marvelous Jackie Longoria close behind at .562. Outfielder Caro Garcia has smacked four triples already while Hope Rodriguez (.491) has gone yard thrice.

North was ranked No. 4 in the Valley Top 10 last week with EHS fifth and Vela in at No. 9. The Coogs had scored 57 runs and allowed a measly four heading into the Grudge Match. Last year the rivals split, each winning at home.

EHS (4-0) followed the narrow win over Vela with a 7-6 nail-biter in 10 frames over P-SJ-A Memorial and then a 20-6 blowout of P-SJ-A Thursday in which it plated 12 runs in the fifth inning. The Lady ‘Cats have three kids swatting away at more than .500, including breakout freshman Katy Truitt, at .560. Salinas leads with 28 RBI and Salas has knocked in 25, for a banging squad that averages 10.6 rpg and has hammered 73 extra-base hits in 17 games.

On the mound, Amber Reyes has emerged as the No. 1 hurler for the Lady ‘Cats (15-2 overall) and has been stupendous in 2017 with a 9-1 record, a tiny 0.60 ERA, and 63 strikeouts in 47 innings.