By Fred J. Robledo
Fitting that on senior day it was a freshman who helped Bonita High School’s softball team inch closer to the Hacienda League title. Anissa Sanchez knew replacing area player and pitcher of the year Chloe Wurst would be a chore, especially with the pitching rubber moved back from 40 to 43 feet.
Sanchez found herself in a situation with pressure from the start, asked to anchor the CIF-Southern Section Division 2s second-ranked team. It’s been a work in progress, though there have been far more ups than downs.
But on Friday, in a game the Bearcats had to have against league-leading West Covina, Sanchez was at her best, battling out of jams and doing just enough to lead Bonita to a 3-1 victory, striking out eight and scattering seven hits. (To continue click thread)
“At first I was a little nervous,” Sanchez said. “But after the first inning I felt I was on.”
Bonita (20-4, 8-2), which dropped out of first with two unexpected losses to Diamond Bar and Los Altos last week, moved a half-game in front of West Covina (15-2, 7-2), but the Bearcats own the tiebreaker having beaten the Bulldogs twice.
West Covina has three games left next and Bonita has two.
“We have to do our job and close it out next week, then get ready for the playoffs,” Bonita coach Ken Carlson said. “I’m proud of this team. The way they went down last week, some might have held their heads. But they never strayed away from the challenge. They came to battle and got a win against a good team.”
Bonita only had four hits against West Covina’s Dekota Monarrez, but they scratched out a run in the first, third and fifth to go up 3-0.
Breeanna Sandoval’s ground-out scored Courtney Gano from third in the first, then Sandoval’s single in the third scored Danielle Smith for a 2-0 lead.
Liza Liddell scored from third in the fourth on Vanessa Romero’s fly-out to left, and that was it, the game in Sanchez’s hands.
And did she ever deliver.
West Covina had runners on first and second with no outs in the first, but Sanchez got a pair of ground outs and a strikeout to get out of it.
The Bulldogs got three consecutive singles to load the bases with no outs in the sixth, but Sanchez answered with a strikeout, then got a double play to turn the Bulldogs away again.
Even in the seventh, after Alexis Gonzalez’s two-out infield single scored Ashley Rodriguez to erase the shutout and cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 3-1, Sanchez didn’t get rattled.
Instead, with two runners aboard and the go-ahead runner and the Bulldogs’ best hitter at the plate in Taylor Castro, Sanchez got a strikeout to end the game.
“She did a great job,” Carlson said of Sanchez. “She’s been working to learn to keep her composure, to stay in the game, to not show too much emotion to tip of other batters. We knew she could do it, but she has to prove it to herself she can do it at this level. Just for her confidence, it was big.”
Bonita shortstop and senior Courtney Gano knows what its like being a freshman on varsity with expectations.
Gano felt the same pressure when she was a freshman at Los Altos with big expectations. She transferred to Bonita earlier this year, and has been a great mentor for Sanchez.
“Her situation was different,” said Gano, who has a scholarship to the University of Washington. “She’s a freshman pitching on one of the area’s top teams, that’s a big responsibility. But when she faced pressure, she came through for us, that’s what you like to see. To get out of the bases loaded jam and get out of the seventh, that’s why we depend on her.”