Sonora battles back, earns season sweep of Troy with late charge
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
After allowing a four-run second inning, the Sonora girls softball team wasn’t deterred, taking back the lead in the sixth inning and running away in the seventh for a decisive 9-4 victory over Troy, Thursday afternoon on the road.
With the win, coupled with Fullerton’s defeat of La Habra, the Lady Raiders now find themselves in a three-way tie for the Freeway League lead after a big week. Sonora defeated Sunny Hills on the road, 5-1 on Tuesday afternoon.
On Thursday, it was Chelsea Purcell and Audrey Castro providing the big hits for Sonora.
“Early on in the game, I was really anxious and [Troy pitcher Miranda Trinidad] kept throwing me low and away, so the plan was just to see the ball in all the way,” Purcell said. “My dad says it all the time, see the ball, hit the ball.”
Immediately following Troy’s four-run second inning, Castro brought the Lady Raiders back within one run with a two-run home run to deep right center field.
Despite missing an opportunity with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, Sonora’s bench came in to give the Lady Raiders the lead in the sixth inning.
Ashley Diaz hit a double to right center field, driving in Taylor Clark for the game-tying run. However, Diaz injured her right knee sliding into second base and Mena Aguilar-gaxiola, in a pinch-run situation, scored on a pinch-hit single by Emily Hauke to give Sonora a 5-4 lead.
“We’ve had some injuries, we had a new third baseman in today and it’s a testament to the depth that we have,” said Michelle Rodriguez, Sonora head coach. “We hadn’t started our nine until the start of league, so they’ve had experience. I think it’s the hardest thing to do to come off the bench and hit on a moment’s notice, but they came through.”
Purcell gave the Lady Raiders (12-9, 4-2) enough insurance in the top of the seventh inning with a three-run home run to left field. Madison Gimpl scored on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Christina Garcia before Casanas and the defense closed the door for the win.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, Troy (13-9, 3-3) responded with four runs in the second inning. Two runs scored on a sacrifice fly by Brianna Sanchez when a throw to third base went into the Lady Warriors’ dugout.
Two batters later, Ryann Ferguson hit a two-run home run to right-center field on the first pitch she saw from Casanas for a 4-1 lead.
“I felt like if we stayed aggressive [at the plate], which we were early on, we could get some positive things happening,” said Marlon Buttram, Troy head coach. “For whatever reason, we quit being aggressive and there’s not much you can do at that point except live with the results.”
However, after the inning, Rodriguez had a message for her team.
“We know we have to take it from teams, they’re not going to just give it to us,” Rodriguez said. “So after that inning, I told the girls ‘What part of showing up did you not understand?’ They took that one run and slapped us in the face with it, this was a battle and we fought.”
Casanas and the defense responded, allowing just three hits past the second inning. In the fourth inning, with runners on second and third base, Purcell threw home on a ground ball and Gimpl applied the tag to keep the score at 4-3.
Leandra Jew ended the threat by making a running catch in center field as Troy stranded a runner at third base.
Purcell also made a barehanded play to retire Hailey Danko to lead off the third inning, while Jew chased down five fly balls in center field.
“We really wanted to calm the defense and make the outs,” Purcell said of the team’s mindset after the second inning. “I think once we got off track, but we leveled our heads together and really came together as a team. Once we do that, we communicate really well and it’s a huge help.”
Troy will play Buena Park next Tuesday. Buttram believes that if the Lady Warriors defeat Buena Park, the team needs to win at least two of its final three to make it into the playoffs.
The road for Sonora doesn’t get any easier in the near future. The Lady Raiders will face another top team in Fullerton, Tuesday on the road.
“It’s rewarding for the girls to have a week like this,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve always known these girls to have talent, but now they’re showing a lot more composure. This is just a testament to what we did on Tuesday, it shows that we can do it and it shows the caliber of team that we are. This is what we’re going to expect from them, there’s an expectation now, instead of imagining what we could do as we did the last couple years.”