The Lancers’ softball team was unable to upset first place El Camino College Thursday afternoon, losing 9-3 at Robinson Park. With the defeat, the Lancers have dropped to 17-16 overall and 5-11 in the South Coast Conference. The Warriors improved to 26-7 and 14-1 in the SCC.
After falling behind 1-0 early in the first inning, the Lancers defense dug themselves an insurmountable hole in the second inning by allowing six runs. With the bases loaded in the second inning, ECC catcher Gabby Fordiani extended the Warriors’ lead to 4-0 with a three-run double, which seemed to deflate the Lancers’ energy and momentum. After two innings the Lancers trailed 7-1.
“Honestly we need our kids to play with heart and to play with a purpose,” head coach Monica Tantlinger said. “When they do that I’ve seen them compete with the top 10 teams in Southern California, and beat them. When we come out flat and let games go by this is the result we’re going to get every time.”
After giving up seven runs, Tantlinger replaced starting pitcher Brianna Lopez with sophomore pitcher Cierra Newton. Newton wasted no time with her fast-pitch, forcing the first batter to pop out to right field.
“Cierra came in and did a good job,” Tantlinger said of the sophomore.
“I just wanted to come in and shut them down and not allow them to score any more runs,” Newton added.
After getting in the scoring column in the second inning, the Lancers improved their defense in the third inning, forcing three consecutive outs. Newton and freshman shortstop Anais Sustayta were instrumental on defense for the Lancers despite the score. Newton finished the game with 16 strikes in five innings and Sustayta recorded countless stops that could’ve ended the game early.
“Ani is very similar to Yes [Yecenia Cardenas] in the sense that the fire they both bring,” Tantlinger said. “We’ve worked a lot mentally with her and getting her to understand how important she is on defense and offense. Some of those plays she makes, my mouth is just open like wow.”
The Lancers cut into the deficit in the fifth inning with a home run by sophomore second-baseman Justine Zavala, her seventh of the season. On her first pitch Zavala rocked the fast-ball to centerfield to cut the El Camino lead to six, 8-2. PCC would get as close as 8-3 on a RBI single to leftfield by freshman first baseman Derek Blow but ECC would go on to prove why they lead the SCC.
“I felt like we didn’t play our best defense,” Lopez said. “Some innings we did and some innings was flat, it was just frustrating.”
Despite the defeat, freshman catcher Holly Riker-Sloan batted 2-for-3 and rightfielder Mariah Quintana was 2-for-4. Newton pitched her best game in SCC play as she helped slow the Warriors to four hits and one earned run over the final 5 1/3 innings.
The Lancers will travel to play Long Beach City on Tuesday in a 3 p.m. showdown.