Menlo 5, Biola 4
Date of competition: Saturday, March 11, 2017
When Menlo College and Biola University get together, it always seems to be a thrilling contest, no matter the sport. That was the case Saturday afternoon on the softball field as both teams suited up in Golden State Athletic Conference play. The Oaks were looking to rebound after a very rough doubleheader against Vanguard on Friday, and rebound they did early on in the doubleheader. Menlo won the first game 5-4 and came oh so close to earning a sweep. Biola used a walk-off single in the eighth inning of game two to emerge victorious by final of 9-8. After the afternoon's action, Menlo is now 16-14 (3-7) while Biola is 16-9-2 (5-5).
Game one of the doubleheader was highlighted primarily by the hot bat of Sarah Reyes, but it was also a bounce back game for the Menlo offense. The Oaks entered the game having been shut out in three of the previous five games, so they were in desperate need of a shot in the arm. They got just that with Sarah Reyes, elevated to the fourth spot in the lineup in game one. The Oaks got two runs on the board in the opening frame, thanks to a two-run double from Reyes. Lauren Harrison led off the game by reaching base on an error, and Bryce Etzler singled her over to third. The doubled scored both Harrison and Etzler and gave Menlo the early advantage.
The Eagles answered back in the bottom of the second inning off Menlo starter Victoria Cervantes. She had a busy day on the mound, starting game one and throwing nearly seven innings in game two (more on that to follow). Cervantes allowed a single to lead off the inning, and hit a batter with one out. With two runners in scoring position following a rare one-out sacrifice bunt, a two-run single proved the sacrifice was the correct decision, and it tied the game after two innings. Cervantes only wound up going four innings in this game, allowing the two runs on five hits, one walk, and three strikeouts.
Menlo broke the 2-2 tie in the top of the fifth, and it was Etzler getting aboard first in a painful fashion: getting plunked. A fielder's choice moved her up to second, and Teddi Diedrich followed with a bunt single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Ariana Belarde hit a bouncing ball that the Eagles tried to cut down Etzler at the plate, but an error from the Eagles catcher resulted in everyone being safe and Etzler scoring, making it 3-2. Unfortunately, Menlo could not extend the lead further in that inning, with a double play and a fly out ensuing. They would get two more runs in the top of the sixth, after Harrison and Cassie Grana walked to open the inning. Etzler singled to load the bases, and a wild pitch scored the first run. Reyes did her thing once again with a single through the left side to score Grana. The Oaks took a 5-2 lead into the last inning, and that proved to be a good thing given what happened in the seventh.
Jordan Kennedy pitched the final three innings of the game to earn a save, but it got extremely dicey in the seventh. With one out, Kennedy allowed a single and then an RBI double to make it 5-3, with the runner reaching third on the throw to the plate. A groundout brought home the second run of the inning, making it 5-4. With two down, Kennedy allowed another single and another double, putting the tying run at third and the winning run on second. She was able to bear down and get a groundout to second to end the game and secure the third conference win of the season for Menlo.
Game two can be summarized by the first and last innings, because that is where the most action happened. Menlo scored three times in the first to open game two, and it began with a Lauren Harrison single to center. She stole second, and Cassie Grana walked. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Bryce Etzler was able to drive them both home with a single, and she wound up scoring on the play thanks to a pair of errors from the Eagles defense. Menlo sat comfortably in the driver's seat, but not for long, as the Eagles scored a whopping eight runs in the bottom half. Sarah Reyes was got the start, but she allowed three walks, a hit batter, and a single, and left the game with two runs already home. Jordan Kennedy entered in relief, and she did not fare much better, allowing four hits and three runs of her own. Menlo suddenly found themselves down 8-3 after just one inning, but once again, that would not last long.
Menlo got back in the game with a rally similar to that of Biola's, this time in the top of the second. Brooke Menesini and Megan Wright were hit by pitches to open up the inning, and Brooke Shigematsu brought in Menesini with a single to left field. Harrison followed with a triple to score both runs, just one of four hits in the game for Harrison. Menlo now trailed 8-6, and made it a one run game after Grana doubled home Harrison. With nobody out, the Oaks could not advance Grana home, ending the inning with a fly out and two strikeouts, keeping Biola out in front 8-7.
The score would stay this way until the top of the seventh, the final chance for Menlo. With one out in the inning, Menesini doubled to left field, and on the very next pitch, Wright did the same to tie the game at 8-8. Alaina Morgan stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter, and she was hit by a pitch, something she did an awful lot of in 2016. With two runners on and one out, Menlo again could not squeak across another run after a pair of groundouts. After the Eagles left the winning run on third in the bottom of the seventh, the game went extras.
Victoria Cervantes deserves all the credit for keeping Menlo in the game. She entered on the mound in the bottom of the second and pitched the final six innings of regulation, where she allowed eight hits, no runs, two walks, and struck out five. She was not as lucky in the bottom of the eighth, as Biola executed a sacrifice bunt to move the "international tiebreaker" runner to third, and then an RBI-single off the wall won the game for the Eagles, ending what could have been an impressive comeback for Menlo.
The Oaks have just one series next weekend, a GSAC doubleheader with William Jessup University on Saturday, March 18. First pitch is scheduled for noon.
posted by Rick on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:50 pm
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