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Hughes hot bat, defensive play helps TWolves overcome six errors
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Sierra Highs Iyana Hughes pops up off the third-base bag after leading off the game with a triple as Kimball infielder Anisha Richardson receives the ball late. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — Iyana Hughes helped Sierra’s softball team take an early lead with her bat.

She later helped the Timberwolves keep the lead with her glove.

They needed all of her contributions in a 7-5 win over dangerous Kimball on Wednesday.

Hughes was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle and later came up with a momentum-changing catch in left centerfield.

Pitching ace Allie Walljasper struck out 14, but Sierra (2-1 Valley Oak League, 5-2-1 overall) nearly squandered an early 5-0 cushion because of six errors — three leading to three runs in the fifth, and two more for two runs in the seventh.

The five runs is the most given up by Walljasper this season, though only two were earned.

“That was just a breakdown in defense that I don’t think I’ve ever seen,” Sierra coach Nick Olmo said. “We’ve had our issues along the way, but nothing like I’ve seen today. It’s like their heads weren’t in the game at all. Maybe too comfortable with the lead, I don’t know what it was.”

Sierra wasn’t in the clear after getting two big insurance runs off Lexus Barnes’ single to right in the top of the seventh inning.

In the bottom half, Katelyn Bomar ignited Kimball’s last-ditch effort with an infield single before stealing second. Llesenia Torres then reached on a two-base throwing error that also allowed Bomar to score.

With Arianna Hawkins, the Jaguars’ best player, now standing at the batter’s box, Torres swiped third and plated the final run thanks to yet another throwing error.

Hughes stopped the bleeding on the next pitch, robbing Hawkins of a possible extra-base hit with a diving catch in the left-center alley.

“I knew that if the ball was going into the outfield I had to get dirty and catch it, or at least keep it in front of me,” Hughes said.

She sparked the Timberwolves early, leading off the game with a triple to left and scoring on a passed ball. In the second, Brianne Lenoci and Lily Gonzales drew back-to-back, two-out walks and were both driven home by Hughes’ double.

Hughes finished 3 for 4 with two runs.

“Iyana has been on,” Olmo said. “She’s been hitting the ball hard. She’s doing an awesome job as our leadoff hitter and that’s why we have her there.”

Danielle Lallos (two doubles) and Torres (RBI double, two runs) each went 2 for 4 to lead Kimball, a potent offense that averages 8.5 runs per game. The Jaguars managed seven hits against Walljasper.

While hardly the cleanest of victories, it was a much-needed one in Sierra’s first defense of the VOL championship.

The Timberwolves close out the first half of league play with three intra-district rivals vying for one of three postseason berths, starting with Weston Ranch on the road Wednesday. Next week they face East Union and Manteca at home before an anticipated rematch with Oakdale, a 1-0 winner in their conference opener.

“We came here to win a game and we won the game,” Olmo said. “It’s not going to matter how many errors we had — we had to make up for that Oakdale loss.”