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EU scraps for runs to beat Oakdale

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East Union’s Michelle Castro hustles to first base after laying down a perfect bunt during East Union’s three-run rally in the bottom of the third inning against visiting Oakdale

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED May 1, 2014 12:07 a.m.

Swinging for the fences didn’t do the trick for East Union in its first-place battle with Oakdale at Northgate Softball Complex on Wednesday.

The Lancers instead got the job done with a small-ball approach and hustle on the base paths, as they pieced together a three-run rally in the third inning to prevail 3-0, avenge their only loss of the season and force a two-way tie with the Mustangs atop of the Valley Oak League standings.

East Union is in line for its first title since 2008 and clinched a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth with the win.

In the second, Alejandra Rascon, Tea Solario and Taylor Ward each tagged warning-track shots caught by outfielders in what was East Union’s only 1-2-3 inning at the plate.

Different story in the third.

No. 9 batter Valerie Ramos led off with a four-pitch walk, Cherish Burks reached on a bunt single and Jordan Vinson drove in the first run with a slow chopper that squirted through the left side of the infield.

Michelle Castro kept the no-out rally going with a bunt single of her own that loaded the bases. Samantha Owen then drew a bases-loaded walk, and Castro plated the final run by scoring on a fielder’s choice from second base.

“I was cracking up about it,” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “We hit three bullets for three outs and then we come back out and find the holes some other way. But I do believe that good at-bats just gets good momentum, energy and confidence going. I think our girls totally get it.”

East Union (11-1 VOL, 20-1 overall) struggled offensively in its 3-1 loss at Oakdale on March 28. Oakdale ace Melinda Koppinger went the distance in their first meeting but lasted just two-plus innings Wednesday.

“The first time around we were all chasing her riseball,” East Union’s Jordan Vinson said. “This time we all moved way back in the (batter’s) box and laid off of it. It was a good adjustment.”

Taylor Ward, Burks, Vinson and Castro pounded two hits apiece. The Lancers had opportunities to tack on additional runs throughout but left seven runners stranded while two were thrown out at the plate. Defense and clutch pitching from reliever Rylie Pena (four innings, four hits, two strikeouts, two walks) kept Oakdale (11-1, 18-4-1) in it, but the Mustangs couldn’t muster the offense to close the gap.

East Union freshman Alexis Erich struck out six, walked none and hit one in a solid complete-game effort. She threw three perfect innings but also able to work out of some jams while boosted by the defense.

Oakdale had a chance to strike in the top of the first with two on and one out, but Burks snared a fly ball in right-center field while on the run and immediately hurled it to second base for a heads-up force out and threat-ending double play. Burks later robbed Maddi Hackbarth of a base hit with a diving grab in the sixth inning.

“I came into the game confident and really excited to play at home,” Erich said. “The fact that we scored three runs early was huge and I knew the team had my back. I think we were more mentally prepared for this game because we knew what was coming as far as pitching.”

There is still work left to be done for both clubs with two games remaining. On Friday, Oakdale heads to Kimball while East Union hosts Sierra and the VOL’s best pitcher in LSU-bound Allie Walljasper. Both Sierra and Kimball are vying for the third and last postseason berth.

“We’re celebrating that we beat Oakdale, no doubt, but we aren’t saying anything about VOL,” Goulart said. We know better. We have to beat Sierra and Sierra is great. (Today) will be our biggest practice of the year and that game is the biggest game of the year for us. It means everything to us.”


East Union 4, Oakdale 3

Melissa Hansen was 3 for 3 with two RBIs and plated the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning for the Squires (11-1, 18-1), who are now tied for first place in the VOL with Oakdale.

Down 3-2 going into their final turn at the plate, the Squires were jump started by Kaycee Petersen’s leadoff base hit. She ended up at second on an error. Hansen drove her in with a double to tie it, and Patricia Tajii’s bunt was misplayed by an Oakdale infielder to allow the winning run to come in.

Winning pitcher Mikayla Bongi struck out five and walked none while scattering seven hits.

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