A strong burst of wind blew toward right field just a few seconds too late for Sierra.
With two out and Legacy Barnes on base in the bottom of the seventh inning, No. 8 hitter Desiree Mejia tagged a 1-0 offering from East Union pitcher Mikayla Bongi and sent it high to right-center field, where Allie Tajii tracked it down and reached up to make the grab near the fence.
Then out of nowhere the gust arrived, as visiting East Union held on for the 1-0 win.
“That’s been my season,” Sierra coach Victor DeAnda joked.
The Lancers (8-0, 18-3 overall) remain all alone in first in the Valley Oak League, and their biggest challenges so far have come from their intra-city rivals. They also beat second-place Manteca 1-0 on April 7. East Union will host both on back-to-back days starting with Sierra on May 4.
“I knew it was going to be this way and I know it’s going to be like this the next time,” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “It’s like this every time we play Sierra.
Izabella Owen proved to be the difference in this pitchers’ duel.
Sierra’s Lindsey Walljasper had a no-hitter brewing until Owen poked a soft single into left field to start the top of the sixth inning. It was the only hit given up by Walljasper, who struck out 11, hit two and walked one. The lone run was unearned.
“She always throws great against us and I love competing against her,” Owen said. “I had to stay off the riseball because that’s what she kept getting us (out) on. Instead of hitting away, which is what I like to do, I changed it up to slapping and it worked the count more. I got ahead in the count and that helped me.”
Owen advanced to second on Tajii’s fielder’s choice and stole third. The pickoff throw to third was too high on the steal attempt, allowing Owen to score.
“Izabella Owen at the top of the lineup is magical,” Goulart said. “She’s been having a phenomenal season and is a scoring machine.”
Goulart also praised both pitchers, calling Walljasper “impressive” and the “best pitcher we’ve faced so far this year.”
Bongi wasn’t too shabby either, racking up nine strikeouts, walking one and hitting two in a two-hit gem. Sierra’s Mia Guevara led off the bottom of the first with a single to right but benefitted from an awkward bounce off the dirt as the ball skipped over Lancers second baseman Danielle Ramos. Nicole Gardner connected for a one-out single in the following inning for the Timberwolves’ other hit.
“Our girls are tough and resilient,” Goulart said. “We’re used to 1-0 games right now. We don’t score a lot of runs so we know we can’t give up a lot of runs. Our defense has been really sharp, pitching has been great and catching has been great.”
Meanwhile, the growing pains continue for Sierra (4-3, 5-8), though coach DeAnda refuses to use his team’s youth as an excuse. The Timberwolves dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker in 10 innings against Manteca on March 31, and an error helped pave the way for the Buffaloes’ winning run.
“I don’t look at us as a young team anymore,” DeAnda said. “Yeah, we might have four freshmen starting, but they’re varsity ballplayers for a reason. We just need to execute better, especially against these good teams.”