Sometimes when a team fails to bunt, it works out anyway, and this the Lady Cougars proved at home Friday night during a 4-1 victory over Vela.
In a scoreless game North came to the dish in the fourth, and experienced trouble getting the ball down fair. Twice the bunt did not work out; however, each time the kids then bowed up for singles to score runs. North plated four in that frame while the Lady SaberCats were rattled in the field, with two errors, pretty well spelling the end.
Jackie Longoria, the senior who is now 100 percent healthy after a series of maladies, pitched like it in a must-win situation, twirling a four-hitter to stymie the Lady Sabes, who dropped to 4-4 with the loss. When No. 1 is dancing to the pregame music, the other team is in trouble, put it that way.
The triumph was satisfying for North (7-1) because it kept the team a game behind EHS (8-0) in the 31-6A standings. The Lady Coogs were great in the field, as sophomore Jessica Diaz made a tremendous catch in left, Maria Garza scooped a difficult chance at first, and cool Vanessa Garces was as always a steady hand at short.
Indeed, Garces turned in the most important play of the night in the fifth. After North had stomped to the 4-0 lead an inning prior, Vela got runners on and scored a run, but Garces dived to her right to backhand a shot from Alyssa Alaniz and had the presence of mind to pitch the ball to Nat Rodriguez at third for a dramatic force-out.
From there, Longoria pitched out of the jam to hold the Lady Sabes to just one tally. Though she walked four on the night, Longoria made the throws she needed – including a number of screwballs that flummoxed the Vela bats – and her defense was sound behind her.
North managed six hits against junior “Monie” Reyes, including two from sophomore catcher Hope Rodriguez, who doubled to the wall and singled, barely missing a late-game homer when her opposite-field rocket left the field a bit foul down the right-field line. Garza and freshman second sacker Secilia Lopez (sister of ex Vela catcher Sarah) each drove in a run, and North showed it is still going to be a factor in the title chase.
The Lady Coogs now have three games left until the rematch with EHS, and will assuredly come into Grudge Match II April 13 gunning for revenge.
Vela, which had scored a money win against P-SJ-A Tuesday to stay a game ahead of the Lady Bears, experienced the One Bad Inning against North, and it was a killer. The Lady Sabes of Coach Jon Maples – a promising yet youthful outfit with no seniors in the starting lineup Friday and just three juniors – now had to regroup for Tuesday’s home match versus the streaking Lady Bobcats. EHS clobbered 0-8 Econ 15-0 in early time Friday, to remain spotless in the league.
Reyes fanned nine on the night and had one of the four Vela hits, walking twice in a productive outing despite the loss. Junior Audrey Guerra knocked a base hit and also flashed the glove at first with a sweet scoop of a wild, bouncing throw. Lefty Gaby Villarreal had a hit and a super defensive play from right field, tossing out a runner – who had appeared to single to right – at first base for the somewhat rare 9-to-3 putout.
The Lady Sabes had amassed 33 runs the past two games coming in, and averaged 8 rpg in district. In ending Vela’s three-game winning streak, North swept the season series between the two, following a 6-0 win in the league opener March 7. North has now plated 93 runs in nine 31-6A contests, allowing only 21.