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SOFTBALL: La Mirada’s Urbina pitches gem, gets offensive support in Suburban League opener

 

March 16, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

Norwalk High’s softball team, enjoying it’s best season since 2018, hosted La Mirada High this past Tuesday hoping to prove that it can be a worthy contender for a Suburban League title. But the queens of the circuit had other plans, and it began with Aleyna Urbina.

The senior pitcher faced the minimum through four innings and ended the tilt tossing a two-hitter while striking out six in a 7-0 victory. It was business as usual for the Matadores, who are seeking one final championship in the last year of the league. Next season, the Suburban League and San Gabriel Valley League will join forces and it may be a while before La Mirada and Norwalk face each other as league opponents.

“The league opener is what we look forward to all season,” said La Mirada head coach Brent Tuttle. “I just told my girls that’s why you practice as hard as we did all year [and] that’s why we put the schedule in front of you that we did.”

La Mirada jumped all over Norwalk sophomore pitcher Jailynn Banda in the top of the first inning as senior third baseman Janis Espinoza reached on an error and senior center fielder Grace Archuleta was walked before sophomore catcher Rebecca Eckart singled in Espinoza. After junior first baseman Natalie Craig reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, freshman designated player Angelina Conde brought in Archuleta. Two batters later, freshman shortstop Amanda Urbina hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.

The Mats tacked on solo tallies in the second and fourth innings before senior pinch hitter Layla Monteon and senior left fielder Peyton Powers each hit solo home runs in the fifth inning to complete the scoring.

“It’s been our league for a few years now; the league runs through us and that’s what we told the girls,” said Tuttle. “Norwalk’s capable, so we said we had to come out here, set the tone early, and we did. We put three on them in the first inning and just kept adding one, adding one. And if you get a game like that from Aleyna, we’re tough to beat.”

Despite the shutout, Banda’s numbers were a bit deceiving. She threw a first pitch strike to 22 batters, was ahead in the count 0-2 six times and had a 1-2 count on seven batters. And of the batters she was ahead of in the count, 16 resulted in outs. Eight of the nine starters reached base and La Mirada recorded 10 hits off Banda.

“She performed well [in the circle],” said Norwalk first-year head coach Fred Perez. “I know we just have to make sure with two strikes, we have to get that closeout pitch just to make sure we shut it down and not extend that batter’s at-bat.”

The same cannot be said for the Norwalk offense. After a perfect bottom of the first inning, Aleyna Urbina gave up a leadoff single to Banda on an 0-2 count. But on the next pitch, senior first baseman Brianna Perez popped up to Craig who dove back to tag first base, doubling up senior courtesy runner Kamryn Velazquez. The La Mirada ace would then retire the next seven batters before walking Banda to begin the fifth inning. After that, she sat down four straight and nine of the next 10. She threw 73 pitches, including less than eight pitches in three innings.

“Aleyna is a very, very good pitcher,” said Tuttle. “She’s not going to give you 100 strikeouts a year, but you’re going to get ground balls, you’re going to get little pop-ups. She works the batters good. She’s efficient where doesn’t throw a lot of pitches. And she has a really good defense behind her.”

“I think most of our hitters were in their own head, looking for certain pitches and they weren’t the pitches they were getting,” said Perez. “But it’s one game; it’s from the first game of league. I know we’re going to come back and bounce back because I know the sticks we have in this lineup.”

La Mirada, which came back from Bullhead City, AZ where it went 1-4 in the Tournament of Champions, improved to 7-6 and visited Etiwanda High on Mar. 17 before entertaining Bellflower High on Tuesday. Norwalk dropped to 11-5 and is two wins shy of reaching the program’s total from the previous three seasons combined. The Lancers went 15-10 in 2016, a win total easily attainable this season.

“I’ve always said we’re going to play the best of the best,” said Tuttle. “If I think my kids are tough, we’re going to play the best teams around, because we are a Division 1 team and that’s what we’re going to see in the playoffs. So, we might as well go out there and take our licks now, learn our lessons and hopefully we’re getting better every game. If we’re playing our best softball in May, we’re going to be tough.”

“The season has gone great; the girls have been performing well,” said Perez. “Today, we faced a really good pitcher, and they just needed to adjust a little bit more to what she was throwing. But overall, I see the season going pretty good for us.

“I know the girls are excited to go play them because every time we play La Mirada or Mayfair, it’s a big competition game to where it’s pretty much bragging rights,” he later said. “I feel really good going against them. Even though the score doesn’t show it today, it wasn’t our day today.”

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