The Hornets bats were silenced today as the Saddle College Gauchos starting pitcher, Roni Belleza, through her third shutout of the season blanking the Hornets 3 – 0. Despite offensive surges throughout the game, Hornets batters failed to capitalize on opportunities with base runners in scoring position.
Hornets freshman starting pitcher, Haylee Enriquez, started strong getting the first three batters out in the top of the first inning. It wasn’t until the second inning where her defense was pushed to the limit.
Gauchos batters Dimpo Benjamin and Rachel Valera led off the inning with base hits and both advanced off a sacrifice bunt from Belleza that put them in scoring position.
Mackenzy Peak, the next Gaucho batter, laid down a bunt back to the pitcher, Enriquez, who quickly threw out the baserunner, Benjamin, attempting to score from third base. Despite the Hornets attempts to prevent any baserunners from scoring, the next Gaucho batter, Paige Welk, slapped an RBI single through the left side allowing the baserunner, Valera, to score from third base giving the Gauchos a 1 – 0 lead.
The Gauchos would strike again at the top of the third inning when Anne Thibert scored off a hard hit ball to Hornets’ sophomore third baseman, Natalie Gonzalez which extended their lead to 2 – 0. Gonzalez bobbled the ground ball and made an off-balance throw resulting in the batter, Emma Estep, reaching first base.
Estep would later score the third and final Gaucho run when Enriquez walked her last batter of the game with the bases loaded making the final score 3 – 0.
Hornets sophomore reliever, Jessica Lopez, came into the game during the third inning to control what damage had already been done. She held the Gauchos scoreless for the rest of the game striking out five batters.
“Coming out here, I wanted to do better than what I did last week because I haven’t been mentally strong,” stated Lopez. “I want to be out here for my team more and I felt like practicing over the weekend prepared me for this game to hold [the Gauchos at three runs.”
Gauchos Head Coach Nick Trani expressed his frustration with his team’s offensive performance after Lopez relieved Enriquez in the third inning.
“There’s a big difference between Jessica Lopez and [Enriquez],” said Trani. “The first pitcher was fine, but we weren’t prepared for Lopez. She came in and pitched well.”
Several unsuccessful attempts were made by Hornet batters to chip away at Saddleback’s lead; Celeste Borza had a double to right-center field in the fourth inning and Madison Ferguson laid down a bunt single in the fifth inning that put Clarissa Hernandez in scoring position.
Each offensive opportunity was wasted as the next batters would strikeout. Throughout the game, Hornets batters struck out nine times; five of them going down looking.
The Gauchos aren’t usually the biggest thorn in the Hornets’ side. This loss to Saddleback College is the first in three years.
“We got to make some adjustments,” insisted Hornets head Coach Speedy Mendoza. “This pitcher kept us off balance with the high pitch and a lot of our [players] didn’t stay within themselves. They were swinging like they wanted to hit balls over the fence instead of keeping it simple and try to put the ball in play.”
The Hornets after dropping another conference game now have a conference record of 3 – 3. Their next game will be Friday against the Orange Coast College Pirates in Costa Mesa at 2 p.m.