Lady Heralds persevere, beat Gahr in slugfest at home
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
After falling to La Serna by mercy rule on Tuesday, the Whittier Christian softball team shook it off quickly and responded by slugging it out against Gahr at home in a 9-7 victory, Thursday afternoon.
While Hannah Gabriel kept the Lady Heralds even with the Gladiators early on, it was Celeste Adriano’s two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that broke a 7-7 tie and all but sealed the win for Whittier Christian.
“It happened at the right time, I knew I had to go into that at-bat calm,” Adriano said. “Usually there’s a little more pressure, but I knew what I had to do and it happened. I feel it’s all-around, I always have to step up, this is my senior year.”
Adriano’s shot was the fifth home run from both teams combined in a game that was back-and-forth throughout.
Despite giving up seven runs, five of them earned, Gabriel battled for the complete game in the circle and retired the side in order in the seventh inning to preserve the win.
“I just had to stay focused and within my game, as well as trust my fielders,” Gabriel said. “I had to believe that if the ball did go out there that they would have my back all the time.”
But Gabriel was as important at the plate as she was in the circle. After Gahr freshman Malia Quarles put the Gladiators up with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning, Gabriel responded with a two-run home run to left in the bottom half.
When Quarles hit a second two-run shot to center field in the third inning, Gabriel repeated the feat again, hitting another home run to left field in the bottom half of the inning as the teams remained deadlocked after three innings at 4-4.
“I never really look to hit home runs, this is the first year I’ve hit a home run,” Gabriel said. “Usually I’m just a base-hit hitter, but the weight room has made a difference. The home runs were big, I wasn’t trying to swing for the fences, I just waited for the right pitch and swung.”
Gabriel finished 3-for-3 at the plate with two home runs, four runs scored and four runs driven in.
After Quarles’ first two at-bats, Whittier Christian head coach Dale Van Duyn elected to walk the power-hitting freshman for the remainder of the contest.
“I have a lot of respect for her and that’s why I walked her,” Van Duyn said. “She can flat-out hit the ball and I have to respect a player like that, but it takes a team to win. [Gahr] is a good team, I have nothing bad to say about their team, they’re a good team.”
Gahr (7-8) reclaimed the lead in the fourth inning when Alyssa Cuffia drove home Celeste Gonzalez with an RBI-double to left field.
However, the Lady Heralds again battled back, this time with small-ball.
After an error put runners on second and third base, Katelyn Wagner laid down a squeeze bunt to bring home Gabriel from third base, which tied the game.
Erica Romo followed with an RBI-single and, later in the inning, Mackenzie Lou also drove home a run with a single as Whittier Christian took a 7-5 lead after five innings.
“It’s not just the long ball that wins games, we have to execute,” Van Duyn said. “We worked on a lot of things with a lot of different kids and it showed today. I was really proud of them, we worked on our bunts and we worked on our hitting. It’s a good win for the team.”
But the Gladiators had one more response as Alyssa Rodriguez scored on a throwing error and Cuffia scored on a sacrifice fly by Sabrina Quarles to tie up the score.
Adriano delivered the exclamation point with her line drive homer to center field with no one out in the bottom of the sixth inning to give Whittier Chrisitan a big win before league play.
“It felt really good after getting killed earlier in the week,” Adriano said. “This was a team that we were equal to and we did what we had to do to win, which was nice.”
Whittier Christian (7-5) opens up the Olympic League with a road game at Heritage Christian, next Tuesday afternoon.
“You can’t get a better game before league,” Van Duyn said. “If you could plan a game to play before league started, this would be it right here.”