The Lancers’ softball team won their second consecutive game on Tuesday with an impressive 5-3 defensive display over visiting rivals East Los Angeles College at Robinson Park.
PCC got off to a quick start from the beginning with a well-timed home run by the first at-bat. In the bottom of the first inning, and with a full count, sophomore second baseman Justine Zavala rocked a solo home run to left field and over the fence for her sixth long ball of the season.
“Usually we have that one inning that just gets us and we came out and played seven innings of softball,” freshman catcher Holly Riker-Sloan said. “We just came out and played good defense behind Bri and that’s what we needed. We needed to come out and win this ball game and that’s exactly what we came out here and did.”
Freshman shortstop Anais Sustayta was a catalyst for the Lancers on the defensive end, recording six total outs on the afternoon. Sustayta wasted no time getting dirty with a diving stop in the top of the third inning to get the runner out at second place.
“Defensively we played a very good game, we made no errors,” Sustayta said. “Our pitcher did really good. She played throughout the whole game and she did excellent, she did her job.”
“I’m not sure if we’ve had another game where we’ve made zero errors,” head coach Monica Tantlinger said. “It shows when we play solid defense it puts our offense in a position to score more runs. Having the defense perform like we did today alleviates stress off the pitcher. The pitcher doesn’t feel like she has to strike everyone out because she has a strong defense behind her. It carries through the entire game.”
Despite a noticeable improvement on defense, the Lancers’ 1-0 lead would be short-lived after a one-run double up the middle by ELAC infielder Andrea Rocha. Centerfielder Larissa Munoz gave the Huskies their largest lead of the game with another double that landed just fair of the left foul line to advance the ELAC lead to 3-1 in the top of the third inning.
After Zavala’s first inning home run, ELAC pitcher Byanka Diosdado was more aware of her powerful hitting ability and walked the sophomore in the bottom of the third inning. The Lancers had an opportunity to regain the lead during the bottom of the third inning after ELAC walked sluggers Zavala and Riker-Sloan, but sophomore second baseman Jennifer Pegg was unable to take advantage of the opportunity with a ground out to third base.
In the top of the fourth inning the Lancers continued an impressive defensive clinic with key stops. After allowing Diosdado on base with a powerful single up the middle, the Lancers went on to get three straight outs, including a timely save in right field by sophomore utility player Breanna Rodrigo. With an improved and error-free defense on display, freshman pitcher Brianna Lopez was able to get into rhythm and settle down after allowing three early runs.
“Lopez, she’s just a gamer,” Tantlinger said. “I can tell when she was in a groove. She gave up those three runs, but after that she settled in and they never got two hits in a row after that.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Lancers closed the gap with a bunt by Rodrigo. An ELAC error at first base allowed Rodrigo to get on base, but most importantly sophomore first baseman Katelyn Thordarson was able to cross home plate from third base to cut the lead to 3-2.
“You feel confident.” Lopez said of her team’s improved defensive efforts. “For us to have a good defense today made me feel confident and I just did my job.”
The Lancers’ defensive efforts continued in the fifth inning behind key defensive plays by Zavala and freshman utility player Alejandra Grimaldo. After Lopez walked her first player of the game in the top of the fifth, Zavala and Grimaldo provided key stops for the Lancers to keep PCC within reach heading into the final two innings.
The Huskies left the door open in the bottom of the fifth inning and the Lancers jumped at the opportunity with consecutive hits from Pegg and freshman outfielder Michelle Lopez. After Grimaldo was walked on the ensuing play, Thordarson gave the Lancers the lead with a two-run single to right field to give the Lancers the 4-3 advantage.
In the top of the sixth inning the Lancers took care of business defensively, recording three consecutive outs to give Lopez a quick rest. Lopez only threw a total of six pitches in the sixth inning thanks to swarming and motivating defense.
“I believed in myself, I just kept it calm,” Lopez said.
“We need to continue to play like we played today,” Riker-Sloan added. “We can definitely up our offense a little bit, but if we continue to play defense like we played today we got it.”
ELAC committed four crucial errors on the afternoon and the Lancers made the Huskies pay for each mistake. After Rodrigo advanced to third on a throwing error by ELAC, freshman outfielder Mariah Quintana singled to left field to bring in Rodrigo for the 5-3 advantage and the victory. With the win, the Lancers improved to 14-12 overall and 5-8 in conference while ELAC fell to 8-14 and 4-8 in conference. The victory gives the Lancers sole possession of fourth place in the loaded South Coast Conference.
The Lancers will travel to face a talented El Camino-Compton Center on Thursday at 3 p.m. ECCC (16-19, 4-9) has won three of their last four games.
“Compton is a good competitor,” Tantlinger said. “They have taken down ELAC twice, our defense has to stay strong and we need to come out and swing the bats at them.”