High School Softball: La Habra loses to Sunny Hills

La Habra shortstop Taylor Pierce, left, forces out Sunny Hills’ Aly Gutierrez during Thursday’s Freeway League game. (Keith Durflinger / Staff Photographer)

By Eric Terrazas, Staff Writer

LA HABRA – La Habra High School’s softball team has ruled the Freeway League in recent years and captured league crowns the past four seasons.

With a talented cast led by senior standout pitcher Vanessa Ciocatto, the Highlanders feel confident about their chances of defending their league title.

Sunny Hills, however, is hoping to put an end to the Highlanders’ run, and on Thursday the visiting Lancers got an early jump with a nine-inning, 4-3 victory.

Junior Riley Nahrwold pitched a complete game for Sunny Hills (10-7 overall, 2-0 in league), which overcame a 3-1 deficit. Nahrwold allowed eight hits, an intentional walk and struck out two.

Ciocatto also turned in a solid outing for the Highlanders (9-6, 1-1). She scattered nine hits, two walks and recorded six strikeouts in eight innings.

Sophomore outfielder Amber Elliott led off the Sunny Hills ninth with a single to left. Elliott then was ruled safe at second on a close call while Jennifer Brubaker reached first on a fielder’s choice. Viviana Ruiz drew a walk from La Habra junior Taylor Pierce, who took for Ciocatto.

That set the stage for senior outfielder Vanessa Batt, who drove in the eventual winning run with a bases-loaded walk.

The Highlanders, however, nearly put together a successful comeback of their own.

Junior utility player Camille Manzo started the threat by reaching on a Lancers error. After freshman outfielder Frankie Mendoza’s one-out infield single, freshman outfielder Jayanna Perez laid down a bunt and loaded the bases when she reached on an error.

Nahrwold responded by escaping the jam by retiring sophomore infielder Racquel Manzo when she caught a hard-hit line drive back to the mound.

Nahrwold then secured the win when Amanda Akles popped out to second.

“You can’t make errors late in the ballgame,” La Habra coach Frank McCarroll said. “We gave their key hitters opportunities to beat us and that’s what they did. We bobbled routine balls that extended the inning.

“Vanessa Ciocatto also threw a ton of pitches, and at this point of the season, I’m not going to burn her out. We had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth. If that (line drive) goes through, we win the ballgame, but it didn’t.”

La Habra took a quick 1-0 lead when Racquel Manzo delivered a solo homer in the first inning.

After the Lancers tied it with Elliott’s run-scoring sacrifice fly in the fifth, the Highlanders came back by scoring two runs in their half of the fifth.

Mendoza put the Highlanders back in front when she delivered an RBI double to center. Akles then extended La Habra’s advantage with her run-scoring single to left.

Sunny Hills, however, scored a run in both the sixth and seventh. After Madi Cruse’s RBI sacrifice fly cut the Highlanders’ lead to 3-2, the Lancers tied the game when Shay Knighten scored on a La Habra error that was made during Sarah Wilson’s base hit.

The two teams will meet again April 30 at Sunny Hills.

“One game doesn’t make a season, win or lose,” Ciocatto said. “I believe we will come back stronger than ever.”

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