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SOFTBALL: Artesia ends losing skid by snapping Valley Christian’s three-game winning streak

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

When the Artesia High softball team hosted Valley Christian High this past Tuesday, there were a combined two seniors, five freshmen, five sophomores and six juniors in the starting lineup for both teams. It’s easy to see why if the teams played 10 times, the result could go in favor of either team five times.

But they only play once and the host Lady Pioneers came out on the winning side, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning and coasting to a 7-1 victory. The win ended a four-game losing streak in which Artesia had scored three runs and given up 25.

“We definitely needed this game,” said Artesia head coach Dayna Feenstra. “We needed this win to get back, especially this was our bye for league. The girls had a lot more confidence today. They were a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more confident in getting those hits when we needed them. We were hitting before, but it’s just a matter of scoring those runs.”

“We just let our attitudes get the best of us,” said V.C. head coach Nicole McGahey. “We just got down at the beginning and that turns into error after error. I liked that we still stepped up there in the box and we did what we could in the box and we didn’t give up. But we need to go back to work on defense.”

On the second pitch of the bottom of the first, sophomore center fielder Camryn Thompson reached on an error and moved over when senior second baseman Zoey Williams singled to shallow left field. Two batters later, junior third baseman Brenda Duran doubled to center and after sophomore catcher Charlene Fregoso was hit to load the bases, a single to right field by freshman right fielder Isabel Navarro plated Williams.

V.C. scored its lone run in the top of the third when Artesia freshman pitcher Shelby Hile walked sophomore shortstop Kate Van Kampen, yielded a double to freshman catcher Quinn Livesay and a base hit to junior center fielder Katie Morewood. The Lady Crusaders (5-5) had numerous chances to score more runs but stranded nine runners in the first four innings.

“We loaded up and we hit the ball right where the players were,” McGahey said. “So, we didn’t take advantage of those moments. We were hitting the bottom of the ball, hitting them up in the air and not taking advantage of finding the holes in the field.”

The next inning, the Lady Pioneers (3-7) put the game away with three more runs. With two outs, Thompson and Williams singled and came home when junior shortstop Natalie Luna singled and went to second on an error. Luna would then come home on Duran’s second hit in three at-bats thus far.

In the sixth inning, Williams reached on an error and with two outs, Duran blasted a home run over the left field fence to conclude the game’s scoring. The top four in Artesia’s lineup-Thompson, Williams, Luna and Duran-did much of the damage, going a combined nine of 16 with six runs batted in and all seven runs scored.

“My top four, and I’ll even go my top five with Char, I think they’re probably one of the best hitters in league just because I’ve known them for so long and I know what they’re capable of,” Feenstra said. “It’s just them continuing with that confidence.”

Meanwhile, it has been a learning period for Hile, who is one of six freshmen on the team. Hile worked five innings, scattering four hits and striking out five while walking five. She has started eight of the 10 games up to this point.

“Shelby’s a strong pitcher,” Feenstra said. “We’re trying to understand that as a freshman, she’s going against juniors and seniors. She’s making that pitching adjustment; she’s adjusting her pitches and her locations and she’s mentally tough.”

Morewood went two for three for the Lady Crusaders, who lost for the first time since an 8-5 setback to Bell High on Mar. 17 in the second of four games they would play in the Santa Fe Tournament. V.C. hosted The Webb Schools on Mar. 29 and then will be off until Apr. 12 when it hosts Village Christian High in its Olympic League opener.

“I love where our team is at right now,” McGahey said. “We’re playing bigger schools that we didn’t play last year, so we took the challenge to play some tougher teams to get us ready for league. We expected something like this to happen today; we really did. I think our girls almost needed that at this point because after their three wins, they were feeling pretty good. And we should, they played well and they played incredible on Saturday. I wanted to just hone in on what it feels like to be a winner on Saturday and then what it feels like to let your attitude get in the way like they did today.”

Artesia hosted last place John Glenn High in Suburban League action on Mar. 29 and will have a pair of games on Saturday to wrap up action in the Santa Fe Tournament before being off until Apr. 10 when it hosts Bellflower High.

“I still think we have a lot of work to do,” Feenstra said. “We’re very young; most of our team are freshmen and sophomores. So, we’re definitely learning, just getting mentally stronger and tougher during those key at-bats. But I like where we’re at. Even though we’re 0-2 in league, we’re definitely not out.”