Caitlyn Pineda’s three-run blast not enough to secure Monarch victory

Valley right fielder Caitlyn Pineda hit a home run to center field, knotting the game at four in the fifth, but the Monarchs fell short of a victory, losing 8-4.

By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor

Valley right fielder Caitlyn Pineda drops her bat after hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning against Glendale College. Pineda's first moonshot of the season brought home catcher Isabel Flores and left fielder Lexus Freire to even the game at four. (Griffin O'Rourke / The Valley Star)

Entering Thursday’s contest on a five-game losing streak, the Monarchs aimed for their first conference win but could not pull it off, losing 8-4 after heading into the sixth inning tied.

Valley College softball (4-18, 0-6 WSC East) had only one hit through the middle of the fifth as Glendale College (8-21, 1-5 WSC East) had stifled the Monarchs’ bats, but freshman right fielder Caitlyn Pineda unleashed her pent-up energy after sitting out four weeks with a hamstring injury in one of their rarest plays of the season. With runners on second and third, the righty stepped up to the plate. Seeing the tumbling pitch drift over the plate, she swung and hit the ball square over the center field wall for her first home run of the season, tying the game at four.

“I’ve known Caitlyn since she was 14 years old. She was a player at Cleveland [High School],” said coach Greg Venger. "She has already got her degree but she comes back and she plays for fun. She plays because she loves the coaches, she loves the girls and I’m glad that she got that big hit for us.”

Despite Pineda’s efforts, the Vaqueros scored four unanswered runs in the sixth and seventh to escape with a victory.

The Monarchs began the contest with promising pitching as freshman Isabel Ward struck out two batters to hold the opposition scoreless in the first.

Attempting to score early, Valley stayed patient as Glendale’s pitcher Sierra Ruvalcaba walked two batters and hit Pineda with a pitch to load the bases. Freshman shortstop Tea Carbajal was able to capitalize as she flied out to score freshman infielder Citlali Mendez.

The Monarchs could not hold the lead as in the next inning, a late throw to second on a stolen base allowed the Vaqueros’ runner on third to score.

In the fourth, Ward faltered, allowing two hits, one hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice fly to put Glendale up 2-1.

Trailing with half the contest behind them, the Monarchs found themselves in a very familiar situation.

As the game moved along, Ruvalcaba figured out how to attack the strike zone, and the Monarchs struggled to put hits on the board.

Leaving the door wide open for the Vaqueros, Valley could not keep Glendale from growing its lead as hits and a steal brought in two more runs in the top of the fifth.

Ward finished the frame with a strikeout, but the game began to slip out of Valley’s reach.

The Monarchs finally managed their first hit in the fifth when freshman left fielder Lexus Freire drove the ball into center field for a single, advancing freshman catcher Isabel Flores, who reached on an error, to second.

Valley pitcher Isabel Ward winds up for a pitch in the top of the second inning. Ward threw five strikeouts in seven innings, but allowed seven runs on eleven hits and two walks. (Griffin O'Rourke / The Valley Star)

Mendez sacrifice bunted to place both runners in scoring position, bringing up Pineda with a chance to tie the game.

The Cleveland alumna stepped up to the plate, located the pitch and launched it over the centerfield wall for Valley’s second home run of the campaign, knotting the game up.

“My plan was to at least get a base hit anywhere,” said Pineda. “If you’ve seen the pitching, it was very slow, nothing that we haven’t seen before. I sat, waited and drove. That was honestly my most hyped moment of the whole season and I couldn’t be any happier.”

Sophomore pitcher Sidney Hernandez stepped onto the mound in the sixth, but immediately walked two batters and forced Ward to reclaim her pitching duties to close the game.

Two Vaqueros scored on a bloop double in left field and an error by Isabel Flores as the Monarchs fell further behind. A bouncing pitch allowed a third run to score, shrinking Valley’s comeback chances.

Tacking on another on a fielder’s choice in the seventh, the Vaqueros responded to Pineda’s home run before Valley could gain any traction, handing the Monarchs their sixth straight loss.

“[Pineda’s home run] was the moment where you would hope that your team then goes out there and puts up a zero and then you come back and hit,” said Venger. “It shows character when you can come back, but it also shows character when you give up four more runs after that.”

Valley will take April Fools’ Day off before hosting Barstow College in a doubleheader Saturday, with the first pitch scheduled for 10 a.m.

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