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Lathrop loses 13-inning heartbreaker to Mountain House
Mountain House-Lathrop softball
Lathrop center fielder Tianna Gonzalez lays out in the gap to rob Mountain House’s Mackenzie Coffman of a base hit in the 10th inning. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

 Lathrop dropped its fourth straight game on Thursday, falling to visiting Mountain House 9-2 in a 13-inning marathon that was both heartbreaking and encouraging for the young Spartans.

Mired in a hitting slump in recent weeks, they found a way to tie it late in regulation and remarkably had no defensive errors through 12 innings. They ultimately could not get the big hit to get over the hump, and Lathrop (4-3, 9-5 overall) missed a big opportunity in this pivotal Western Athletic Conference clash.
With the international tiebreaker in place, the Spartans had a runner on third base — thanks to a passed ball — with no outs in the 11th inning and their No. 2 batter at the plate.

Mountain House pitcher Luna Lopez escaped with a strikeout and two routine infield popups.

“I’m very, very proud that we hung tough with a team that’s top three in our league,” Lathrop coach Stephanie Maestretti said. “That’s huge, we just gotta hit. Getting hits with runners on base is what we are struggling with right now.”

The Mustangs, (5-1, 14-5 overall) capitalized on three errors in the 13th inning and strung together eight singles to plate seven runs.

One brutal inning spoiled a gritty effort from Lathrop’s battery. Ariana Fuentes, one of just three Spartans seniors, pitched all 13 innings and rung up 10 strikeouts. She gave up 17 hits, walked five and hit one.

Sophomore catcher Luz De Luna knocked in the tying run in the seventh to force extra innings and played on after taking hard foul tips to her facemask and a kneecap. She was the Spartans’ leading hitter, going 3 for 5.

“Feeling tired, and my arm is pretty hurt right now,” Fuentes said. “Seeing how dedicated (De Luna) was really inspired me to push myself even more. She was playing hurt, so my I thought my arm would be OK for a few more innings.”

They could only keep the Mustangs caged for long.

Clean-up hitter Mackenzie Coffman unlocked the floodgates with the first of her two hits of the 13th inning. She drove in the game-winning run with a single up the middle that was misplayed by an outfielder.

Most of Mountain House’s hits in the game-breaking inning barely left in the infield, either with soft grounders that sneaked through the gaps or loopers that dropped between defenders.

“They were finding those holes, which we couldn’t do,” Maestretti said. “It usually takes us a little while to get warmed up, and we had quite a few innings to get warmed up.

Coffman finished 3 for 7 with and two RBIs. Freshman catcher Cassidy Townsley went 4 for 6 with a walk, a double, two runs and an RBI. Coffman clobbered a triple in the third inning to plate Townsley for the first run of the game. Madison Smith doubled the lead in the fourth, scoring on a passed ball.

Lopez went the distance for Mountain House. The junior lefty struck out seven while giving up just six hits and walk.

Freshman Ja’Leiyah Ray (2 for 5) sparked Lathrop’s late comeback. She tagged a triple to deep left and hustled home after the relay was misplayed.

“She very much is an instinct player, and the one thing that I know about her is she is wicked fast,” Maestretti said of Ray. “Anytime we get in a situation where we can show off her speed, she has the green light to go. That’s just her being herself and being aggressive. Saw a loose ball, and knowing her own speed she just went for it.”

Pitching and defense kept the Spartans in the game in the later innings. Fuentes got herself out of a jam in the eighth inning by catching short pop-up and throwing a base runner out at first for the double play. De Luna ended the ninth when she threw out speedy leadoff batter Isabel Obaob on a steal attempt at second.

In the 10th, freshman center fielder Tianna Gonzalez made a fully-stretched diving catch to rob Coffman of a sure RBI knock. She nearly came up with another diving grab in the 13th.

“Defense was huge for us on key plays to end innings and bring momentum,” Maestretti said. “To have players like that to sell out in the outfield and make a diving catch for us, or to be heads-up enough to make a double play, it’s amazing. These aren’t always things we get to practice, it’s just instincts kicking in and that’s great to see.”

Lathrop also has losses to Ceres (6-1, 7-8) and Los Banos (5-1, 14-3-1) and will need to knock off some of these top teams in the second go-around the conference schedule to have a shot at making the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time.

The Spartans have already eclipsed their previous high of single-season victories, but they are eager to take the program to greater heights. They’ll get their rematch with Ceres next Tuesday at home.

“We have so much more potential than we’re showing in our other (losses),” Fuentes said. “I know that if we keep working together and keep our energy, we’re going to go far.”

Junior varsity

Mountain House 24, Lathrop 14

Kalea Rogers plated a pair of runs for Lathrop, going 1 for 2 at the plate. Sophia Pena also had a hit, scored one run and drove in three.