Third baseman Starr White takes a turn at bat. (Shannon Patrick)
Two of California’s top women’s softball teams met last Wednesday as the No. 6 Saddleback Gauchos hosted the No. 4 Riverside. The game appeared to be a pitching duel but turned into a route as the Gauchos got the victory, 7-1.
The Gauchos bats were silent through the first five innings of play as the score was tied at one. Lauren Molina led off the sixth inning for the Gauchos, as they exploded for five runs in the inning, batting around in the order.
“Hitting is contagious. Once somebody starts, then everybody starts to do it,” Gauchos coach Nick Trani said.
The Tigers came into the game second in the Orange Empire Conference, with a 5-1 overall record, including a perfect 4-0 in conference. The Tigers struck first on a solo home run by center fielder Jackie Serna. Serna battled against Gaucho pitcher Molina, fouling pitch after pitch.
“It was the one pitch, and I picked myself up and I knew we had to score a run to win the game any way,” Molina said. “I just had to keep on pitching and not let it spiral down.”
Low and behold, that was the hardest hit the Tigers would get off Molina as she finished her complete game, allowing the one earned run and striking out eight Tigers while giving up four hits.
While down 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Dana Hermocillo broke Riverside starting pitcher’s Corey Williams no-hit bid with a double. She later scored to tie the game on the grounder hit by Kelli Larson. The Gauchos took the lead on a Riverside miscue, where Shannon Wilkison reached base safely as Brittany Ash scored the go ahead run.
In the bottom of the sixth inning leading 2-1, Molina opened up the inning with a sharp single through the left-side.
“It looked like it was it was going to be a close game, but we all believed we could do it and we pulled together,” Molina said.
With runners on first and second, Hermocillo came to the plate and continued her hot hitting with a single that scored pinch runner Kaitlyn Friday. Hermocillo finished the day two for three with a double RBI and two runs scored.
Perhaps the biggest blow to the Tigers came on a single hit by Kelly Bosshart, which drove in two runs, giving the Gauchos the lead at 5-1. The Gauchos added two more runs via the walk to push the lead to 7-1, which eventually was the final score. Molina is now 7-1 on the season.
“I think we sent a statement to the Tigers today and it shows how deep of a team we are. We can hit, we can pitch and play defense and that is what it takes to win,” Trani said. “In a tough conference, I wouldn’t be surprised if three teams make it to the playoffs.”
The Gauchos record is now 8-4 and 5-3 in OEC play. The Gauchos host Santiago Canyon March 11 at 3 p.m.
Pitcher Lauren Molina maintains the highest team averages. (Shannon Patrick)