Posted on 22 March 2014 by La Habra Journal
Whittier Christian shortstop Melissa Martene was selected to the all-tournament team after the Lady Heralds fell to host Ontario Christian in the championship game, Saturday afternoon.
by Daniel Hargis
La Habra Journal
A late comeback attempt fell just short as the Whittier Christian softball team fell 6-5 to Ontario Christian in the championship game of the Ontario Christian Tournament Saturday at Ontario Christian High School.
The Lady Heralds (6-4), down 6-2 heading into the sixth inning, mounted their comeback after making adjustments to their hitting strategy, but it was too little too late.
“From three games in a row where there’s no pitching and then to come out with a kid who actually throws quite well, it takes time to readjust,” said Dale Van Duyn, Whittier Christian head coach.
The game started off fast with five total runs in the first inning, and then ran cold until almost the end.
The Knights (9-2) jumped out on the Lady Heralds right away with a deep RBI triple to right field by junior second baseman Morgan Santana followed by an RBI single by junior pitcher Areana Ramos.
A sacrifice fly to center field plated the third run before Whittier Christian junior pitcher Hannah Gabriel struck out the last batter looking to end the top of the first inning.
That three run deficit would not be there for long. After the strike out, Gabriel then picked up her bat and crushed the ball over the left field fence for a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning, and the score sat at 3-2 until the sixth inning.
Whittier Christian fell into a slump throughout the middle innings, failing to get a runner on base over the next four innings.
“Their pitcher did a good job. She kept us down and we didn’t adjust to her first strike pitch,” Van Duyn said. “She kept the ball down on us and we didn’t make good contact.”
Good pitching and defense from the Lady Heralds prevented any kind of threat by Ontario Christian during that same stretch as they retired five of the remaining six leadoff batters.
However the Knights were earning two out base hits throughout the entire game, and it finally damaged Whittier Christian in one fatal swing.
In the top of the sixth inning with two outs, Ontario Christian got two base runners on and their cleanup hitter, sophomore left fielder Madison Paige, at the plate.
Paige hit a three-run home run over the center field fence to gain the 6-2 advantage for her team, which proved to be enough for the win.
“Overall it’s little adjustments,” junior catcher Taylor Escobar said. “Like working on finishing the inning, getting two outs early and then finish that last out.”
Once again the Lady Heralds had an immediate answer in the bottom of the same inning, but with a different approach.
Instead of swinging for base hits, senior right fielder Mackenzie Lou and senior shortstop Melissa Martene led things off by laying down consecutive bunt singles to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs.
A sacrifice fly moved Lou to third, Martene stole second, and then senior left fielder Celeste Adriano brought them home with a double to the right center field gap.
Two batters later Adriano touched home herself to make it 6-5, this time from the bat of sophomore second baseman Erica Romo, but the comeback effort fell just short as the Knights escaped with the win and the championship title.
“It finally clicked, like time is running out and we have to work,” Adriano said. “We knew we could come back and we did. It didn’t work out in our favor but we can grow from this, we’ll push even more than today.”
Gabriel went the stretch for the Lady Heralds, recording four strikeouts with zero walks on 12 hits. She also recorded two RBI and one run on the offensive end with one hit.
Martene and Lou each finished with a team-high two hits, Martene had two runs scored, and both Gabriel and Adriano led with two RBIs each. Martene and Gabriel also garnered All-Tournament honors for their efforts.
“As a whole we learned to trust ourselves and also trust the team, that whoever is up to bat, whatever part of the lineup they’re in, they’ll hit,” Escobar said. “I think that’s something we’ll carry through the season.”
Whittier Christian next plays at 3:15 p.m., next Tuesday at La Serna High School, the No. 1-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 3.