By Dave Werstine, Staff Writer
The Del Rey League softball race is interesting now. St. Joseph had a chance to all but wrap up consecutive championships Tuesday afternoon. However, visiting Bishop Amat ruined the celebration, eking out a 1-0 decision to draw even with the Jesters for first place. “We are in a good situation,” said Lancers coach Jesse Mendez, whose team can claim at least a share of the title, with Bishop Montgomery and St. Paul to close the regular season.
Above: Bishop Amats Lauren Vargas safe on second base despite the efforts of Natalia Garcia. The Lancers beat St. Joseph 1-0. Photo by Brittany Murray / Press Telegram
St. Joseph (16-8, 7-2) is still in a pretty good situation despite losing two in a row. Because the Jesters took two of three games against Bishop Amat (12-12, 8-2), they would end up as the league’s No. 1 team for the CIF Southern Section playoffs if the two team tie for first.
“But it could be better with a win today,” said St. Joseph coach Ralph Armenta, whose No. 7-ranked team in CIF-SS Division IV has games remaining against St. Paul, Bishop Montgomery and Cantwell.
“All we would have needed to do is win one of our last three games, but we have to get stronger and tougher now.”
With St. Joseph freshman Maxine Rodriguez and Bishop Amat freshman Sabrina Anguiano locked in a pitchers’ duel, it became increasingly evident that one run would likely decide the game.
The Lancers, who managed just four hits to five for the Jesters, got the key one in the top of the sixth inning. Alexis Gonzalez drew a one-out walk, and with two out Jeo Rios lined a shot to left-center to score the only run of the game.
“It was a 3-and-1 pitch and we had the runner going,” said Mendez, reasoning why Gonzalez was able to score from first base on the play.
“It was a clutch hit.”
That wasn’t the only time Bishop Amat came up big. The Lancers made a handful of great defensive plays to keep St. Joseph from threatening.
In the second inning, Celyna Lujan made a nice running catch in right field, then center fielder Alma Cortez robbed Krista Ruiz and Rodriguez of base hits with a shoestring grab and a diving catch. In the fourth, Alysha Baker made a great play to hold Jessica Kluver to a single on a ball hit into the left-field corner.
“Our defense has really been stepping up,” Mendez said. “Those were two great catches (by Cortez). They dictate the game if they score there.”
Even though the Jesters have had a tough time hitting over the past couple of games, they still had their chances. They had runners in scoring position in the first, third and fourth innings and failed to get that coveted key hit.
It looked like St. Joseph might get something going in the bottom of the seventh as Gripp led off with a screamer off the glove of first baseman Gonzalez. Armenta called for a steal, but catcher Jackie Carlin threw out pinch-runner Yasmin Cruz, with shortstop Kim Hernandez making a nice tag. With two out, Rodriguez singled before third baseman Brandy Galaviz ended the game with a diving catch.
“I told the girls that I took the loss,” Armenta said. “I made the wrong decision and the wrong time, sending the runner. It wasn’t a smart strategy.”