Down by one in the fourth, Valley’s comeback aspirations went out the window thanks to self-inflicted damage in a six-run sixth inning.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
What looked after five innings like a down-to-the-wire affair became one-sided when it was blown wide open in the sixth as the Monarchs’ pitchers struggled to find the strike zone.
Valley College softball (4-15, 0-2 WSC East) came into their St. Patrick’s day contest trying to bounce back from an 11-1 loss to Antelope Valley. The Monarchs looked to take control against a Citrus College (9-17, 3-0 WSC East) team that did not connect for many hits, but after scoring two runs to get within one, pitching proved to be Valley’s downfall. The pitchers' inability to locate the strike zone led to a 9-2 defeat in which six runs were walked in.
“I think as pitchers they have to be mentally strong, and I think they just lacked that a little bit today,” said assistant coach Brianna Velasquez. “It’s just something that we have to keep reminding them, just to take it one pitch at a time, take deep breaths, and control what they can.”
Freshman pitcher Jessica Lopez started on the mound for Valley, allowing two walks and two RBI-doubles as her mishaps saw the Monarchs fall behind 3-0 early.
Lopez stayed on the mound through four innings, keeping Citrus scoreless until she was relieved by freshman right-hander Isabel Ward in the fifth after loading the bases.
Ward cleaned up on the mound and gave Valley a chance to stay in the game, but one inning later she created a mess of her own, causing the Monarchs to stumble and fall. The righty allowed three runs before being replaced by freshman pitcher Amber Basham, who walked in three more.
Offensively, the Monarchs showed progress in the second, bringing in a run to cut the deficit to two. After Lopez made it to first on a fielding error, freshman leftfielder Tatiana Williams lifted a double into deep left field, sending the Monarchs’ pitcher home.
Valley's bats continued their hitting rhythm in the third when freshman infielder Citlali Mendez sent a bullet into left field for a double.
In the next at-bat, freshman shortstop Téa Carbajal reached a full count and looked as the next pitch leaned outside for a ball, allowing her to walk to first. However, the Owls picked up two outs before Valley could tack on any runs, as Valley President Barry Gribbons strolled into the stands to watch the game.
“[I] just came to watch some softball,” said Gribbons. “I am bouncing between here and baseball. I’ve been to softball games in previous seasons, but the timing has not worked out for me this season until today.”
In the fourth, sophomore centerfielder Elizabeth Flores sent a deep shot into center field for a lead-off double. Lopez brought her home on a triple into left field, but the next two batters could not tack on more runs.
The Owls gave the Monarchs no life in the fifth and the sixth, shutting down Valley’s offensive attempts throughout.
Then the sixth inning came, seeing the Monarchs fall apart as Ward and Basham combined for six runs due to lack of control on the mound, allowing Citrus’ hitters to patiently wait as Valley’s pitchers kept missing the strike zone.
The Monarchs would need a St. Patrick’s Day miracle to come back, but luck was on the side of the Owls as Citrus came away with a 9-2 victory.
“Going forward, we just have to keep being teammates to each other, having more breaks between the girls, girls calling time and saying, ‘hey, you got it,’ and [helping] them out, [picking] them up,” said Velazquez.