Lady Heralds pull out all the stops, win big over Long Beach Wilson
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
The Whittier Christian softball team pulled out a bag of tricks offensively and executed its way to an 11-4 victory over Long Beach Wilson in a time-limit shortened contest, Wednesday afternoon at home.
After taking five days off, the Lady Heralds were a bit slow out of the gates in the first round of their own tournament, but Hannah Gabriel sparked Whittier Christian with a three-run home run in the third inning.
In the fifth inning, the Lady Heralds were in peak form, batting around the order and scoring six runs before the game was stopped due to the hour-and-a-half time limit.
“I wanted to give them a little break, but you could see it in the first couple innings, they weren’t normal,” said Dale Van Duyn, Whittier Christian head coach. “But then they started to warm up and get back into it. A little break sometimes helps.”
Shortstop Melissa Martene led the way and finished 2-for-3 at the plate. She scored three times and drove in a pair with a double down the left field line in the fifth inning.
“Our energy and consistency was big, we drove each other in, so it was definitely a group effort,” Martene said. “We got the key hits we needed.”
Celeste Adriano enjoyed a 3-for-3 day, while Cameron McLean scored two runs and earned three walks.
The Lady Heralds scored in a handful of ways, including a bases-loaded squeeze play, Gabriel’s home run, timely hits and a couple runs on wild pitches.
Whittier Christian (10-7) also used sacrifice bunts and a well-executed hit-and-run play with Erica Romo providing the opposite field base hit.
Ultimately, the only thing that stopped the Lady Heralds in the fifth inning was the home plate umpire, who called the game eight minutes past the time limit.
“We have to teach the kids to be resilient and to have a short memory,” said Michael Hunter, Wilson head coach. “That’s a well-coached team, they swing the bat well. Give credit to them, when you put a ball in play, things can happen. They pulled a bases-loaded squeeze and I tip my cap to that. They executed.”
With the game tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the third inning, McLean walked and Martene singled before Gabriel sent a pitch from Wilson starter Emilee Hoppe over the left-center field fence to give Whittier Christian a 4-1 lead.
Later in the inning, Adriano came home on an error to make it 5-1.
The Bruins (9-7-1) responded in the top of the fourth inning with a three-run homer of its own off the bat of Zoe Stavrou. The shot was preceded by a pair of walks issued to Arisa Cleaveland and Jennifer Tobar.
“She’s a big time player,” Hunter said of Stavrou, who is committed to the University of North Dakota. “I’m proud of my girls, they battled. It’s just one of those days. We’re in the middle of league games, so you have to be real careful with what you do in these tournament games with the bigger league games coming. That being said, we started a lineup to try to beat them.”
But it was in the fifth inning that the Lady Heralds looked to be back offensively after the five-day break.
Katelyn Wagner, Romo and Morgan Ryan loaded the bases with consecutive singles. Two batters later, Lou put down a squeeze bunt, allowing Romo to score from third base on a late throw.
“Execution was good, I really wanted to focus on bunting today, I wasn’t sure what we were going to run into, but I wanted to see what the kids could do in tight situations,” Van Duyn said. “They did it, I’m happy with the way they came out today.”
Ryan and Taylor Escobar would come around on wild pitches before Martene’s two-RBI double made the score 10-4. Hannah Gabriel then drove Martene home for the game’s final run with a groundout.
“We definitely need to work on our squeeze bunts, but our girls are on fire with the bats, it’s awesome,” Martene said. “Execution-wise, we’re just going up looking for strikes and took advantage of our opportunities.”
Wilson leadoff hitter Kylie Yanez and Karissa Hamilton finished with two hits each, while Tobar scored two runs for the Bruins, who will play a Moore League game Friday afternoon.
The Lady Heralds will resume the Whittier Christian Tournament on Friday with a matchup against El Segundo at home at 2 p.m.
“We just have to keep the confidence level up,” Martene said. “If we continue to go out there with confidence, we should be fine.”