Just one replay of Caitlyn Early’s Wednesday, walk-off home run against Lompoc was enough for Dos Pueblos High softball coach Mike Gerken on Friday.
He didn’t give the San Marcos High star another chance, intentionally walking her three straight times as the Chargers rallied behind the back-to-back homers of Bella Muno and Riley Monroe for a 5-4 victory on the Royals’ diamond.
“I’ve known Caitlyn since she was 4 years old,” Gerken said. “I haven’t seen her hit in like three years, and seeing it one time was enough for me today.”
The victory pulled DP (7-2, 4-1 Channel League) into a first-place tie with Lompoc, just a half-game ahead of the Royals (5-4, 3-1).
Early, whose homer ended Wednesday’s extra-inning victory against the Braves, started the bottom of the first inning with a long drive over the left-field fence. Her next turn at bat came in the second after the Royals had loaded the bases with one out on hits by Iza Velasquez, McKenzie Mendoza and Emma Foster.
Gerken promptly gave Early the Babe Ruth treatment by walking her intentionally to force in a run and put San Marcos ahead 2-1. Gigi Gritt then hit a comebacker to DP pitcher Georgia Wilson who promptly turned a home-to-first double play.
“I’ve walked somebody intentionally only twice — ever — even back in the rec league,” Gerken said. “But that home run almost hit the house (outside the school field) and I didn’t feel like messing with that again.
“I have seen the newspaper, and I saw that she went 4-for-5 against some really good pitching. I saw what she did against Rio Mesa. I mean, you don’t walk nobodies, and she is certainly somebody to be reckoned with. Today just wasn’t the day to reckon with it.”
The Royals extended their lead to 3-1 with a two-out rally in the third on consecutive hits by Camilla Morales, Velasquez and Mendoza.
DP started strong with Mia Reveles’ first-inning double and Monroe’s RBI single. Monroe went 3-for-4 in the game while Reveles was 2-for-4.
San Marcos pitcher Allie Fryklund settled down after Monroe’s first hit, retiring 13 straight Chargers. She got the first two outs of the fifth when Lacy Spear’s hard smash was mishandled.
Gerken then turned his two speedy Chargers loose. Spear took two bases on Reveles’ drag-bunt single. Reveles then stole second base, and Spear raced home on the throw-down.
“We’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding in those kind of innings,” San Marcos coach Jeff Swann said. “It’s happened maybe just a couple of times, but against really good teams. Against Newbury Park, that happened, and against Rio Mesa, too.
“Good hitting teams will take advantage of that.”
Two good hitters did just that: Muno blasted her two-run shot to center to put DP ahead 4-3. Monroe followed that in the next at-bat with her homer to left.
“The season got cut short last year and I think we would’ve seen this from them last year, honestly,” Gerken said. “They were hitting the ball very well when the season ended, and I see it every day in practice.
“I knew it was going to happen. Neither one had hit a home run yet this year — a couple have hit the fence. Today was a great day for them to hit their first home runs of the year.”
The Royals didn’t go down quietly, however. Mendoza led off the sixth with her third hit of the game, took second on a ground out and, after Early’s third base on balls, raced home on Gritt’s single to right.
“She hits the ball well,” Swann said of Mendoza. “She’s actually filling in for Cassandra Perez who was home sick today, non-COVID-related. She filled in and did a great job and held down first base fantastically.”
“I’m super-proud of her. She’s come a long way and she’s doing great.”
Wilson got a ground out, however, to end the threat. The freshman pitcher scattered nine hits and handled 10 chances flawlessly, with eight assists and two putouts. The last one was a quick-reaction snag of a line drive by Tiana Monaghan.
“If she weren’t a pitcher, she might be our starting shortstop or second baseman,” Gerken said. “She is a great fielder. She has great reactions and great instincts.”
Wilson did have to survive one more at-bat by Mendoza, who launched a long fly ball to center that Reveles caught just before the fence to end the game.