Oakdale pitcher Rylie Pena was appearing fatigued Thursday, and East Union’s Marissa Romero was looking for an opportunity.
She took full advantage, too.
The East Union University of Redlands-bound senior tallied a clutch two-RBI single, which was the go-ahead run that propelled the Lancers to an eventual 7-4 Valley Oak League win at the Northgate Softball Complex.
“(Oakdale) swings the bat,” EU head coach Brian Goulart said. “We played extremely good defense, and our little freshman (Michelle Castro) just got stronger. She’s just a really good athlete.”
Castro pieced together a solid performance after the Lancers (3-0 VOL, 10-1 overall) gave up four early runs. After Romero fought off an inside pitch from Pena that put East Union ahead by two in the bottom of the third inning, Castro started finding her groove.
The youthful defense behind her got routine outs down the stretch as well.
“We had a tremendous defensive effort,” Goulart added. “We had one error, and that’s pretty good for high school especially against a team hitting that hard.”
Oakdale (2-2 VOL, 5-6-1 overall), the defending VOL and Sac-Joquin Section Division IV champion, did put the ball in play. The game saw three ties and the knot was eventually broken when Romero batted in Tea Solorio and Jordan Vinson for the Lancers’ fifth and sixth runs.
“We needed to play a lot better defense,” Oakdale head coach Larry Loger said. “We needed to make a lot of plays that we didn’t make.
“We know (East Union) is a good team. They got speed and defense, and that’s kind of what we are.”
EU outhit Oakdale 10-5 and just wouldn’t go away.
After getting behind 1-0, EU sophomore Cherish Burks (3-for-4, two doubles) crossed the plate after freshman Alejandra Rascon recorded a sac-RBI to tie it at one apiece.
Burks also scored the insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to make up the game’s final score. EU’s Jillian Costa recorded the RBI.
“It feels good having my team behind me,” said Castro, who went the distance and tossed one strikeout to go with five walks. Being a freshman pitcher coming in and beating Oakdale was a great experience.”
After Oakdale went ahead 2-1 with a Haley Fuller home-run shot to left field, the Lancers answered in the bottom of two. EU plated three runs on four hits. Vinson, Romero and Burks all scored.
Oakdale continued to fight as well, plating two more runs in the top of the third to tie the game at four.
That was the end of its offensive output, however, as EU’s defense clamped down on its home field.
“That’s the best team we’ve played all year,” Goulart said. “That was a challenge. If you want a section (title) you go through Oakdale. They have the banner in their gym right now.
“If you want a league and section championship, you have to knock out the champion.
“And this was a knockout.”
EU will face another test next Wednesday when they bump heads with crosstown rival Sierra.