Bad news first.
East Union suffered its first Valley Oak League defeat Friday at Northgate Softball Complex, and the 9-0 walloping administered by the hard-hitting Jaguars of Kimball wasn’t pretty.
The good news for the Lancers (6-1 VOL, 15-3-1 overall) is that they are still alone in first place. That’s because rival Sierra lost to defending champion Oakdale 3-1 on Friday, creating a logjam in the upper half of the standings with now three teams, including Kimball (3-2, 11-5), trailing EU with two losses apiece.
East Union exceeded expectations during the first half of its league schedule, beating both Oakdale and nationally-ranked Sierra. The Lancers have qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs just once since claiming their last VOL title in 2008 but appear to be on their way back up with several underclassmen serving as key contributors.
“We’re definitely a surprise to everybody else, but not so much to ourselves because I think we’re pretty good,” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “We played well in every (league) game except for today. I’m not saying we would have flat out beaten these guys, but we have to at least compete. That was a non-competitive game.”
The Lancers had more errors (three) than hits (two), and they only sent three balls past the infield dirt. Tea Solorio broke up freshman Samantha Sarmiento’s bid for a no-hitter with a one-out, infield single in the third and later popped out to right field. Cherish Burks was robbed of a knock in the fourth with a shoestring catch by Kimball right fielder Gabbi Cox. And in the seventh, Jillian Costa stretched her base hit to a double.
That was East Union’s offense in a nutshell. Sarmiento controlled the Lancer bats with off-speed offerings. She induced 14 groundball outs, struck out two and walked none.
Goulart said it was the worst his team has played all season.
“If there’s one thing we can learn from this it’s if you come out flat you get hammered,” he said. “I give Kimball credit because they swing the bat. Plus, their pitcher threw well and we didn’t adjust at the plate. We have a lot of work to do before we play that team again.”
Kimball coach Joseph Hernandez said it was the best he has seen out of his club, which knocked around East Union freshman Michelle Castro and reliever Savina Brandi for 10 hits — half of them going for extra bases.
Cleanup batter Allison Corliss slugged a two-run homer in the fourth, when Kimball plated four to push its lead to 7-0. The Jaguars scored three in the top of the first and could have struck for more but left two runners in scoring position.
Virginia-bound Arianna Hawkins went 3 for 4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs. Anisha Richardson was walked once, hit once and finished 2 for 2. Llesenia Torres clubbed two doubles, going 2 for 4 from the top of the order.
“Our bats just came alive and we played well as a team,” Hernandez said. “Good pitching, good defense and good hitting. It was our most complete game all year. We had a rough first half to the season, so it’s nice to come out here and make a statement. Hopefully we can build off this.”
East Union 5, Kimball 4
Melissa Hansen completed the Lancers’ comeback victory in the bottom of the eighth inning, stroking an RBI single to right for the deciding run.
The Lancers (5-1) trailed 4-2 in the fifth inning when Destiny Flores knocked in Melanie Ramos and Tailor Ward to tie it up. Ramos also plated the game-winning run.
Pitcher Lindsey Jordan struck out five and walked one in a five-hitter.
East Union 15, Kimball 2
Rebeca Leonard pitched all innings for the Pages (4-0, 14-1), surrendering two unearned runs on just two hits. She also struck out three.
Raquel Duenas led the offense with a 2-for-3 effort. Catlin Heath belted a double.