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Freshmen lead undefeated Sierras late-inning comeback
Julie Deanda follows through on her big swing that produced the tying and go-ahead runs for Sierra in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday against visiting Kimball. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Kimball freshman Samantha Sarmiento used deception and craft to baffle Sierra hitters for the better part of five innings.

And it was two freshmen who sparked a late-inning rally that helped Sierra steal a 3-1 victory in Tuesday’s marquee Valley Oak League matchup at home.

The Timberwolves (2-0 VOL, 11-0 overall) trailed 1-0 since the top of the first despite getting runners on base in every inning. They didn’t get a leadoff batter to reach until freshman Devi Coglio did so with a well-struck single up the middle in the bottom of the sixth.

After Sommer Wilson blasted a shot to the left-center fence for a double that was a few feet short of a homer, Kimball (0-1, 6-2) opted to intentionally walk Lexus Barnes to load the bases with one out. That gave Julie Deanda all the motivation she needed.

Deanda, who belted Sierra’s first hit in the second inning, crushed a 1-2 pitch to the left-center field gap and drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with the double. Katelynn Perkins followed that up with an RBI groundout.

“It pumps me up,” Deanda said of the intentional walk. “I felt like they walked her on purpose to get the freshman out, and I wanted to get a base hit to show them that they walked her for no reason. That felt really good.”

Both Wilson and Deanda went 2 for 3 for Sierra. It was otherwise a sterling chess match between two pitchers with contrasting styles. Sierra’s powerful Allison Walljasper recorded 11 strikeouts, walked one and hit one in a three-hitter.

She gave up an RBI triple to fellow 2012 VOL co-MVP Arianna Hawkins in the first but faced only 13 batters over the next four innings. The Jaguars threatened to expand on their lead in the top of the sixth when Llesenia Torres stroked a one-out double and was followed by a walk to Hawkins. Walljasper escaped with a big strikeout and a line drive to short.

Kimball’s Sarmiento, meanwhile, had the Timberwolves waving at changeups and breaking balls before they were able to bust loose late. She finished with four strikeouts, walked three and scattered seven hits.

“You have to give her props,” Sierra coach Nick Olmo said of Sarmiento. “For a freshman to come out here and keep us off balance the way she did was impressive.”

Olmo said it was only a matter of time for his team to snap out of its slump. Sierra ran into inning-ending double plays in the second and third innings, and Gabby Olmo and Katelyn Salsedo hammered back-to-back, two-out singles in the fifth before Iyana Hughes was robbed of a potential multiple-base hit down the line by Kimball first baseman Allison Corlis.

“We’ve had a lot of late-inning comebacks, so while we were starting to get on edge here we were still semi-comfortable,” coach Olmo said. “We knew that at some point somebody had to hit this girl and get things going. We eventually did, but it just wasn’t the way we wanted to come out for this game.”

Sierra has opened VOL play with wins over defending champion Oakdale and 2012 runner-up Kimball, but the remainder of its first-half schedule should prove challenging. Up next is Weston Ranch at home Thursday and meetings with crosstown rivals East Union and Manteca next week.

“This is huge,” Olmo said. “We don’t like having them at the top of the season like this but we got two of our toughest contests in the books. It’s not done with this game, though. East Union is playing some good ball and Manteca is also dangerous with the bat, so we still have teams left to beat.”