Alejandra Rascon is accustomed to hitting tape-measure shots at Northgate Softball Complex, but she didn’t have a home run to show for it heading into Tuesday’s first-place battle between Valley Oak League rivals.
She does now.
East Union’s clean-up hitter clobbered a three-run homer to end what Lancers coach Brian Goulart called an “exhilarating” 5-3 victory over Oakdale.
“I’m not surprised at all that she bombed one out because that’s what she wants to do,” Goulart said, adding that Rascon routinely smashes towering homers off the pitching machine in practice. “She bats in the four spot and has a four-spot mentality. That’s why she does her thing so well. She’s super special.”
It was certainly a special moment for the Cal State Northridge-bound catcher.
East Union (6-0 VOL, 14-0 overall) blew a 2-0 lead established in the second inning after Delany Pamplin sparked the slugfest with a solo jack to center. Izabella Owen followed with a double to left and later scored on a throwing error on Allison Tajii’s sacrifice bunt.
Oakdale (5-1, 11-1) answered with three solo shots of their own, all no-doubters from Haley Fuller, Maddy Brewer and Lexi Webb, whose homer in the top of the seventh gave the Mustangs’ their only lead of the contest. The Mustangs’ advantage didn’t last long, as Rascon made up for all those home runs with one powerful swing.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about hitting it over,” Rascon said. “But when I swung it felt great, and the first thing I said was, ‘We won, we won!’
“That’s what we all wanted. We worked so hard to get to where we are. We know that we are good and we wanted to win this.”
It was set up perfectly for Rascon and the Lancers with leadoff batter Michelle Castro starting their half of the inning. The senior first baseman checked in with a team-high .609 batting average, and she added another hit — a sharp grounder through the middle of the infield — to her season total. Deja Guzman bunted her to second, and Pacific signee Samantha Owen drew a bases-loaded walk before Rascon took her turn in the batter’s box.
“You can’t be great unless you can come from behind, and no one wants to be behind because that’s no fun, but they put it on us and our girls answered,” Goulart said.
Mikayla Bongi had a lights-out start from the pitcher’s circle for East Union. The junior southpaw retired the first 10 batters she faced and threw nine first-pitch strikes in that stretch. Grace Green broke up her perfect game with a one-out walk in the fourth, and Fuller’s home run in the fifth dashed the no-hit bid. Two batters later, Brewer tied it up at 2-2.
Bongi finished with six strikeouts and a walk while giving up four hits. She was replaced by Pamplin in the seventh after giving up the go-ahead homer to Webb and allowing Fuller to reach on an error. Fuller was left stranded at third, as Pamplin induced two groundball outs and struck out one to escape the jam.
Together they outlasted Webb (eight strikeouts, four walks, six hits), a freshman with a bright future. Bongi credited the play of her reliable defense for limiting the damage. Owen preserved Bongi’s perfect start with a leaping grab of Brewer’s looping shot to shallow left-center field in the third.
Then, after Bongi issued the walk to Green in the fourth, Castro, Owen and Guzman turned an unconventional 3-6-4 double play to end the frame. Green was later robbed of a base hit in the sixth when center fielder Taylor Ward ranged toward the infield and dove to make the catch for the second out.
“I don’t have to worry with my defense,” Bongi said. “I know that when it’s hit someone is going to get to it.”
Ward nearly joined the home run derby. With runners in scoring position and two out in the fifth, she swatted a high fly ball deep to left but Oakdale’s Brittany Bye was there to make the grab with her back touching the fence.
All that did was help add to the drama of yet another classic duel between the VOL’s top teams. The rematch in Oakdale on May 10 fittingly ends the regular season for both clubs. For now, Goulart and the rest of the Lancers will enjoy this gratifying win.
“That was the best game I’ve been involved in as long as I can remember,” Goulart said. “I can’t even tell you how excited our girls are. That was exhilarating. That was so much fun.”