East Union’s Cherish Burks sent the Lancers’ visiting crowd into a ruckus Wednesday.
University of Pacific head softball coach Brian Kolze had to like what he came to see as well.
“I know UOP was here watching (Burks),” East Union head coach Brian Goulart said. “I wasn’t going to tell her at first because I didn’t want her to get nervous. But on the flip side, I told her anyway.”
Burks didn’t buckle, either.
East Union’s standout sophomore not only connected on the eventual game winner, but she also threw Sierra’s Gianna Lenoci out at the plate from center field to end the game 3-2 in favor of the Lancers (4-0 Valley Oak League, 11-1 overall).
“She is that great of a player” Goulart added. “We’re just enjoying having her. She’s turning into a really top-notch player.
“Her stock obviously went way up today with her swinging that bat. Her base running and defensive energy was phenomenal. I thought (Michelle) Castro was great as well.”
The freshman Castro (five strikeouts, three walks, three hits) went the distance and outdueled Sierra standout junior hurler Allie Walljasper, who has verbally committed to LSU.
The game was knotted at two apiece through the first five innings. Walljasper (13 strikeouts, two hits, three runs, one earned) seemed to be getting stronger down the stretch. The hard-throwing, right-handed hurler retired the EU side in five out of six innings.
“Sierra is tough as nails and Allie is a great pitcher,” Goulart said. “You have to fight if you want to win a game like that. You have to battle till the last out.
“This is not a shocker to me. We play hard every inning so I’m not surprised. If you beat a (Division I) pitcher you have to be pretty good.”
EU was pretty good, to say the least.
And so was Sierra, who came into the game ranked No. 9 in the nation by Maxpreps.com.
In the top of the sixth, the Lancers’ standout center-fielder Burks stepped up to the plate. She took a 2-2 pitch from Walljasper and sent a line drive over the center-field fence.
EU’s defense retired Sierra’s side in the bottom of six. After a three-and-out in the top of the last inning, the Lancers’ defense stepped up.
Castro hit a batter and then walked two more to load the bags with one out. Walljasper then stepped up to the plate with a chance to redeem herself.
Walljasper did put the ball in play, but not deep enough. Burks made the routine play in center and then showed off the strength of her arm.
She gunned down Lenoci at the plate to end the contest.
“Giving up two runs early in the game like that, it’s pretty tough to come back from,” Sierra head coach Nick Olmo said. “(East Union) is a good team and defensively solid.”
Burks opened the game up with a double and the Lancers scored two runs in the top half of the first (both unearned). Burks (2 for 3, two runs, one RBI) and Castro crossed the plate.
“(Walljasper) is a known pitcher,” Burks said. “She’s going to LSU… so my approach was to just stay there and be ready for anything. But we couldn’t do anything without the team. It was a team effort.”
Sierra, which dropped to 3-1 in the VOL, 12-1 overall, responded in the bottom half of the first with two runs of its own.
Sommer Wilson jumped out of the ballpark with a solo home run to score herself and Iyana Hughes (1 for 2, two walks, double, run).
Sierra will visit Manteca on Friday, while EU will play against Buhach Colony Atwater in Tracy at the Nor-Cal Classic today at 5 p.m.
Manteca 15, Lathrop 0
Manteca cruised to a VOL rout of host Lathrop Wednesday afternoon as it improved to 3-2 in league, 9-5 overall.
The Buffaloes had 17 hits and scored six in the first inning and seven more in the third to pull away. Selena Gonzalez led Manteca with three hits and three RBIs.
Weston Ranch 21, Sonora 5
Weston Ranch picked up its second VOL win over Sonora Wednesday and improved to 2-3 in VOL play.
Vanessa Contreras went 4 for 4 with a triple and three RBIs. Mia Thurman was 3 for 3 and Naomia Thurman was 2 for 2 with four runs. Mickael battle finished 2 for 2 with a triple.
East Union 9, Sierra 0
EU improved to 3-1 in the VOL, 14-1 overall with a victory over host Sierra.
East Union 14, Sierra 3
East Union’s Nathalie Quant went 3 for 3 during the Lancers’ 13th straight victory Wednesday.
EU, which improved to 4-0 in the league, was led by Vanessa Martinez (2 for 2) and pitcher Rebeca Leonard (three runs, two earned, four hits, five strikeouts).