By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
WEST COVINA — South Hills High School has shown the ability to be mentally tough when it matters most in recent years, and the Huskies showed off the trait again Wednesday.
Caitlyn Van Hemelryck singled with the bases loaded in the sixth to drive in the go-ahead run and freshman Natalie Lugo was dominant in the circle to lead the host Huskies to a 2-1 victory over Charter Oak in a key Sierra League game.
Lugo tossed a 3-hitter and struck out 12 for the area No. 1 Huskies, who improved to 17-4 overall and 3-1 in league play. Van Hemelryck also had two hits.
Sierra Hensel hit a home run in the sixth and Kaile Chavez had two hits for the area No. 3 Chargers, who slipped to 13-6 and 1-2.
South Hills, after falling behind 1-0 on Hensel’s home run, put runners on second and third with one out in the sixth following a lead-off walk to Marissa Reyes and a single by Marissa Thornburg. Charter Oak pitcher Brooke Clemetson, who relieved Chavez in the fourth, looked like she might get out of it after striking out Melysia Ortega.
But after Mariah Tovar was walked to load the bases, Ryenne Chavez reached on a fielding error, which scored Reyes and tied it at 1. Van Hemelryck with a line-drive single that hortstop Marissa Chavez was able to knock down before throwing to third late, allowing Thornburg to score for the 2-1 lead.
Lugo, who had 10 strike outs through the first four innings, got Charger Oak in order in the seventh, getting Marissa Chavez on a grounder back to the circle to end it.
South Hills’ Caitlyn Van Hemelryck: “This is a big win for us. Natalie did a great job of keeping them down and pitching great. It was a big win. We hadn’t beat Charter Oak in a while, so to come back the way we did felt good.”
Charter Oak’s Sierra Hensel: “It’s tough,” Hensel said. “All around as a team, we just need to take a few more cuts in the cage and come up with a little more focus. Hopefully, next time we can come out and do better.”
South Hills coach Brandon Gonzalez: “Every league game is like a playoff game. We battled back. We were down 1-0 and we came back and scored those two runs. It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done. We’ve done this before where we wake up and start scoring runs. It’s not a good thing to do, but for some reason that’s how they’ve been playing.
South Hills coach Scott Higuera: “Bottom line is we weren’t able to finish. (South Hills) did a good job of getting the ball in play in the bottom of the sixth inning. Overall, we could have done a better job of getting the ball in play all game long. Our at-bats weren’t very good. (Natalie) Lugo had a good came; credit to her. But I thought we could have had better at-bats.”