Sports

Late inning rally leads Sunny Hills past host Lady Highlanders

Janelle Rodriguez pitches against Sunny Hills, Tuesday afternoon. Sunny Hills scored two runs in the seventh inning, dropping the Lady Highlanders 2-0 at La Habra High.
Janelle Rodriguez pitches against Sunny Hills, Tuesday afternoon. Sunny Hills scored two runs in the seventh inning, dropping the Lady Highlanders 2-0 at La Habra High.

Story and photo by Daniel Hargis
La Habra Journal

Both teams threatened to score throughout the game, but two late runs propelled the Sunny Hills High softball team to a 2-0 win over defending Freeway League champion La Habra at La Habra High School on Tuesday.

The visiting Lady Lancers (10-11, 4-3) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning, leaving the Lady Highlanders’ (15-10, 4-3) league-best offense with one chance to earn extra innings or a win.

“It takes that one person to get a hit and get it going,” La Habra head coach Frank McCarroll said. “We get people on base, we get them over, but we can’t get them in.”

Sunny Hills’ successful scoring inning got started when junior shortstop Marshaylee Knighten reached first base and advanced to second on a fielding error by La Habra junior first baseman Amanda Akles.

A base hit to left field forced a throw home to stop Knighten from scoring, allowing the batter Amber Elliot to reach second.

However the next batter drove Knighten home on an RBI single, and an RBI ground out plated Elliot for the second run.

“I was pretty confident with the defense I had playing behind me. I was relaxed, and I kind of got pressured,” Rodriguez said. “But I stuck through it, I think my team did amazing today.”

In the bottom of the inning, senior left fielder Taylor Pierce was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.

A fly out to third base almost precluded the game ending out to Lady Lancers pitcher Riley Nahrwold, but a fielding error on Nahrwold’s part put the game-tying run on base.

Another hit batter loaded the bases, but Nahrwold handled the next ground ball hit to her and safely put the game away.

Things got off to a fast start as Sunny Hills found itself with runners at second and third base with only one out in the top of the first inning.

But Lady Highlanders’ pitcher Janelle Rodriguez ended the inning herself with a strikeout followed by a ground ball straight into her grasp for the final out.

La Habra, who leads the Freeway League with 147 runs scored, had its best chances to score in the second and sixth innings.

In the second inning the Lady Highlanders had runners at second and third base, but could not get a runner across. In the sixth inning they had runners at first and second base, but again failed to bring the runs home.

“We need to hit the ball,” McCarroll said. “When it matters it hasn’t happened the last few games, and it’s cost us.”

La Habra, eyeing a fifth straight league championship, falls back into a four-way tie for second place in the Freeway league with Sonora, Troy and Sunny Hills at 4-3. Fullerton stands at the top of the league with a 5-2 record after a 5-4 nine-inning victory over Sonora. All four teams have three games to go.

“We need to have a lot of heart and keep our heads up and keep pushing,” Rodriguez said. “Just keep being the team we know we can be.”

The Lady Highlanders next play at 3:15 p.m. Thursday at fifth-placed Troy High School.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.