Oakdale High softball pitcher Rylie Pena was appearing fatigued on March 28, and East Union’s Marissa Romero was looking for an opportunity.
She took full advantage, too.
The East Union University of Redlands-bound senior tallied a clutch two-RBI single, which accounted for the go-ahead runs that propelled the Lancers to an eventual 7-4 Valley Oak League win at the Northgate Softball Complex.
“(Oakdale) swings the bat,” EU head coach Brian Goulart said. “We played extremely good defense, and our little freshman (Michelle Castro) just got stronger. She’s just a really good athlete.”
Castro pieced together a solid performance after the Lancers (3-0 VOL, 10-1 overall) gave up four early runs. After Romero fought off an inside pitch from Pena that put East Union ahead by two in the bottom of the third inning, Castro started finding her groove.
Oakdale (2-2 VOL, 5-6-1 overall), the defending VOL and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champion, did put the ball in play. Haley Fuller (1 for 1, walk, hit-by-pitch) delivered a towering shot for her first varsity home run and watched Kindra Hackbarth (2 for 3, two runs), Hanna Holland (2 for 4) and Shelby Cordova (2 for 3) land multiple hits.
“We needed to play a lot better defense,” Oakdale head coach Larry Loger said afterwards. “We needed to make a lot of plays that we didn’t make.
“We know (East Union) is a good team. They’ve got speed and defense, and that’s kind of what we are.”
EU outhit Oakdale 10-5 and just wouldn’t go away. After Oakdale went ahead 2-1 on Fuller’s solo shot to left field, the Lancers answered in the bottom of the second frame with three scores.
Oakdale continued to fight as well, plating two more runs in the top of the third to tie the game at four.
That was the end of its offensive output, however, as EU’s defense clamped down on its home field.
“That’s the best team we’ve played all year,” Goulart said. “That was a challenge. If you want a section (title) you go through Oakdale. They have the banner in their gym right now.
“If you want a league and section championship, you have to knock out the champion. And this was a knockout.”
Oakdale 13, Lathrop 0
The Lady Mustangs herded together 13 hits over four innings, scoring 10 runs in the first two innings to cruise to victory on March 26. Lauren Sanders was 3 for 3 with four RBIs while Sarah Peterson batted 2 for 3 with a double. Madison Hackbarth (2 for 3, triple, two RBIs), Kindra Hackbarth (two runs) and Holland (two runs) also came through at the plate.
Pena and Anneliese Davis each tossed two scoreless innings while Melinda Koppinger threw a frame. The bullpen combined to strike out eight hitters.
Oakdale takes part in the NorCal Tournament in Tracy from April 4 to 6.