Whether it was the cold temperature or playoff jitters, Saddleback College and Palomar College played a tight game in their opener of Southern California Regional softball playoffs.
Despite an equal amount of hits and errors, four of each, the No. 6 Gauchos outlasted the No. 11 Comets for the 3-2 home victory Saturday (May 1).
Saddleback improved to 32-9 on the season, and took a one games to none lead in the best-of-three first round series. Palomar fell to 20-12. Saddleback also improved to 3-0 over Palomar this season.
The two teams will match up in the second game of the series tomorrow (May 2) at 2 p.m. at Saddleback. If Palomar wins, there will be a tie-breaking third game approximately 30 minutes after the completion of Game 2.
“We played good,” Saddleback catcher Sarah Bosshart said, “but we were so nervous with it being the first game of the playoffs.”
The early nerves seemed to play a part in the first run of the game.
After a leadoff single in the top of the third, Palomar right-fielder Maribel Casillas advanced to third base on a two-out error by Gaucho third baseman Starr White. Third baseman Teresa Houle capitalized on the Saddleback error and singled home Casillas to give the Comets the 1-0 lead.
Saddleback’s offense was hard to come by, but when the Gauchos found it when it was truly needed.
After two opening strikeouts, Saddleback responded to Palomar’s run in the bottom of the third as second baseman Blyth Ashby singled and Bosshart brought her home with an RBI double to tie the game at 1.
“All of our runs were scored with two outs,” Saddleback coach Nick Trani said. “Our hits were clutch, and we were able to take advantage of [Palomar’s] one error.”
In the bottom of the fifth, left-fielder Chelsea Lievanos reached on the aforementioned error, and the Ashby-Bosshart combo struck again with two outs. Ashby plated Lievanos with an RBI double, and Bosshart brought Ashby home on a single for the 3-1 lead.
This was welcome relief for Saddleback pitcher Katie Doering, who had got into a groove after getting out of a bases-loaded jam only allowing Palomar’s first run in the third.
“She did a really good job,” Doering’s battery-mate Bosshart said. “She had everything going for her. She has really been our most consistent player.”
The All-Orange Empire Conference pitcher had one more blip in the sixth giving up a two-out solo home run to Ashley Dawson to cut the lead to 3-2.
After opening with a strikeout and a hit batter in the seventh, Doering was able to induce Houle into a game-ending double play to take the series lead.
As joyous as the double play was for Saddleback, it was equally devastating. While stretching to catch the ball at first base, Stephanie Chotkevys fell to the ground in pain. Chotkevys tried to walk back to the dugout, but she collapsed and had to be helped off the field. Chotkevys could not place any weight on her left leg, and the early diagnosis was a pulled hamstring.
In what already looked like an offensively deprived series, the Gauchos will surely miss Chotkevys, who was second on the team with 11 home runs.
Doering was the winning pitcher for Saddleback and improved to 20-4, pitching seven innings and allowing two runs on seven hits with five strikeouts.
Ashby and Bosshart led the Gauchos with two hits each. Ashby led with two runs, and Bosshart led with two RBI.
LeBeau took the loss for Palomar and fell to 9-9, pitching six innings and allowing one earned run and three runs total on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts.
Despite the low score, offense still didn’t seem to be Saddleback’s issue heading into the second game tomorrow (April 12).
“We’ll see [Palomar pitcher Danielle LeBeau] again tomorrow,” Bosshart said. “We’ll get our bats on her pitches.”
Bosshart still didn’t seem phased by the defensive lapses, and contributed it to the first-game jitters.
“We’re kind of head cases sometimes,” Bosshart said. “We’ll get our heads together.”
Coach Trani still could not look past the errors, but put a spin on the post-game optimism and raised expectations.
“If we don’t play better tomorrow,” Trani said, “we’re going to lose tomorrow. Both games.”