Huskies Keep Playoff Hopes Alive, Nab Roadrunners 5-2
by Cerwin D Haynes
When faced with a theatening situation, most living creatures enter what's called a flight-or-fight response. Either one runs from said situation, or they fight it head-on.
The East Los Angele College softball team faced said situation today (in a sporting sense) in taking on the Rio Hondo Roadrunners: the Roadrunners were 1 1/2 games up on the Huskies entering today's game and two slots (#16) in front of East LA (#18) in the SoCal RPI. Win today, and the Huskies stay alive a top-4 finish in the South Coast Conference and for a shot at the CCCAA SoCal Play-In next month. A loss would put ELAC in grave danger of missing the playoffs altogether. Fight to play in May, or flee.
The Huskies chose to fight on: Behind 5.1 strong innings from starting P Serena Lopez and a mix of timely hitting plus some advantageous Rio Hondo errors, East LA (16-20, 8-10) topped Rio (23-13, 9-10) 5-2.
ELAC struck first - in the bottom of the first - with an RBI single to right by Dani Varela, scoring Nathalie Cordova. In the 2nd inning, Priscilla Hernandez led off with a single to left. Arianna Cobian, the next Huskies' batter, tried to bunt Hernandez over to 2nd: Roadrunners' P Clarissa Evangelista fielded the ball, but threw it behind 1B Arianna Amezcua all the way to the fence in foul territory. As Rio scrambled to find the ball, Hernandez (already at 2nd) scrambled past third and would cross home plate by time Rio retrieved the ball. 2-0 Huskies.
In the fourth inning, Rio would cut the lead to 2-1 thanks to an RBI double by Nadine Marquez. But the Huskies would respond in their bottom half of the inning: with two outs, Irene Huizar singled to left and was followed by Cordova who doubled left, advancing Huizar to third. Irene Dorado was up next, and she hit a high swirling pop-up to the lip of the outfield grass behind 2nd base. SS Heaven Wolf appeared to have had a beat on the ball, but dropped it, allowing Huizar and Cordova to score. 4-1 Huskies.
In the top of the sixth inning, ELAC held a 5-1 lead but it apeared Lopez was running out of steam. She allowed a leadoff single, retired the next batter and then gave up another single and then hit a batter to load the bases. Head coach Erika Blanco now faced a season-threatening situation: with the tying run at the plate, in a game East has to win, she had to decide whether to stick with her everyday starter or turn to her bullpen. Coach Blanco was decisive, quickly motioning for P Lauren Tate to relieve Lopez. And for a nervous moment, one would wonder if Tate could handle the situation as she threw a wild pitch past C Cobian that allowed Rio's Amezcua to score from third and cut the East LA lead to 5-2.
But Tate proved the moment wasn't too big for her.
She struck out Alexis Rivera swinging for the second out. After walking Alexia Mayorga to (again) load the bases, she induced Ashley Bravo to weakly hit the ball right in front of home plate. Cobian was able to field the ball easily and step on home plate for the force to end the inning. The Roadrunners would not form a threat in the seventh inning as Tate only allowed one baserunner due to a HBP, and the Huskies held on for the win.
Lopez earned her ninth win (9-8) of the season by going 5 1/3, allowing six hits, two walks, and two runs (one earned). Huizar batted leadoff today and went 3-4, scoring a run. Varela went 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
- In speaking with assistant coach Melissa Angel after the game, she informed that the top 18 teams in the RPI rankings usually make it to postseason play. ELAC is currently ranked #18; however, Barstow College (20-12, 12-3, RPI #29) is in second place in the Inland Empire Athletic Conference, where the top two seeds earn automatic entries into the playoffs. This means Barstow could bump ELAC out of the 18th and final playoff spot. "We'd have to finish #17," says Angel.
The Huskies will take the weekend to prepare for the final three regular season games: ELAC hosts SoCal #1 Mt SAC on Monday (a makeup game from April 7), travel to LA Harbor Tuesday to play the Seahawks, and then out to Long Beach Wednesday to face the SoCal #5-ranked Vikings.