By Keith Lair
The Arroyo High School softball team needed to find a little separation. The Knights found it with a bases-loaded triple. Lorena Helguera’s fifth-inning hit gave Arroyo the lead, a gap on host Gabrielino and a little bit of breathing room in the Mission Valley League with a 7-3 victory Wednesday afternoon at Gabrielino. “It was pretty scary,” the sophomore left fielder said. “The bases were loaded and I had to do it. It was a nice hit for me because I did what I had to do with teammates on base.” The Eagles, trying to close the gap on league-leading Arroyo, held a 3-0 lead through three innings. But the Knights got a run in the fourth and four in the fifth to rally for the victory.
Arroyo is 8-1 in league play, now holding a two-game lead on second-place South El Monte. Gabrielino is three games behind, having played two fewer games than South El Monte. Gabrielino is 4-3.
The Knights still have six league games to play, however, including a rematch against Gabrielino on May 6.
“We had an opportunity to start getting nervous and play tight, but we ended up continuing to work it out and figure out how to make adjustments,” Arroyo coach Laura Purcell said.
The Knights got to reliever Breanna Delgadillo, who suffered the defeat. She had replaced freshman starter Michelle Sloane an inning earlier.
“I switched pitchers because she was starting to get hit,” Gabrielino coach A.J. King said of Sloane. “They are a good team at adjusting. They adjusted to our first pitcher, so I made the change.”
Cynthia Sanchez singled and Natalie Mota reached base when the throw to first base on her sacrifice went over the head of Jaime Martinez. Jaclyn Wagner then singled to make it 3-2.
Leadoff hitter Felicia Gonzales was then hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Helguera tried to hit a squeeze bunt to score pinch runner Mayra Helguera from third base to tie the game, but the ball went foul. On the next pitch, she sent it past right fielder Joleen Macias to clear the bases.
“That was a huge hit at the right time,” Purcell said. “It was a perfect placement.”
She Lorena Helguera also hit a run-scoring single in a two-run sixth inning.
“We just had one bad inning and unfortunately, that’s all it takes,” King said of the fifth. “They’re a good enough team that when their momentum is going, it just keeps on carrying. One bad inning got us in a slump.”
Wagner had a rough start, as the Eagles jumped on the right-hander quickly. Delgadillo tripled and scored in the first inning and then in the third inning singled in Vanessa Mijares, who got on when the third strike was in the dirt. When the ball went underneath center fielder Angel Torres’ glove on Delgadillo’s hit and there was an ensuing throwing error, she was able to circle the bases.
Wagner gave up only two more hits and a walk the rest of the way. Gabrielino was able to get that walk, to McKiernan, to third base, but Wagner got a strikeout to end the inning. The two other base runners failed to advance past first base.
“She definitely found her niche and did better as the game went on,” Purcell said. “It all worked out.”