Buena’s Lauren Albrent hustled out a fielder’s choice in the top of the seventh inning Thursday to allow the go-ahead run to cross home plate, as the Bulldogs came away with a 2-1 victory at Dos Pueblos’ Okinaka Field.
The Chargers (0-1) dropped their season opener despite an outstanding outing from senior Ali Corden, who went the distance and allowed just one earned run and struck out six. Corden gave up just five hits and walked three batters over her seven innings of work.
“I felt really good at the beginning of the game,” said Corden, who struck out the side in the first. “My main focus, for now, is going to be my stamina. I felt a lot better at the beginning than I did at the end, but that’s also something to say about them for catching onto that stuff. I think I really need to do a better job of keeping that momentum through the whole game.”
Dos Pueblos took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Senior Sierra Laughner led off the inning with a single to centerfield and scored on an RBI double by Bella Nuno in what was her first high school at-bat. Ashley Gerken followed with a single to centerfield, though the ball was hit so sharply that Nuno had to be held and was stranded at third base.
Corden got into a jam in the top of the fourth. Olivia Vargas reached on an error to start the inning and Hailey Badilla drew a one-out walk. Corden was able to get Kamryn Lunceford to line into a double play and end the threat.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Mikayla Butzke walked to lead off the inning. Mia Reveles laid down a perfect two-out bunt to reach safely and a throwing error by Buena put runners at second and third. Buena’s Mary Ward-Zaragoza was pulled after going 3.2 innings and was replaced by freshman Destanee Perez. Perez walked Allison Gasper before getting a strikeout to end DP’s scoring chance.
After the game, Perez told the News-Press she wasn’t nervous about coming in the game in a tight spot.
“I’ve been in that situation before,” she said. “I’ve been put in with the bases loaded (with no outs) and I didn’t let anyone score.”
Corden walked Buena’s Call Peckfelder to lead off the fifth. Peckfelder stole second and reached third with one out following a groundout to first base. Off the bat, the ball bounced on the dirt in foul territory but snuck into fair territory before Butzke fielded it and stepped on the bag. With the infield drawn in, Anese Thompson drilled a single to center to tie the game at 1.
After the game, Corden was kicking herself for walking Peckfelder and allowing Thompson to tie the game. The DP pitcher has played with both girls in club softball and knows how talented they are.
“Hats off to her, she did a really good job,” Corden said of Thompson.
Buena’s Jocelyn Ortega drew a pinch-hit walk with one out in the top of the seventh. Perez helped her cause with a single to right centerfield, putting runners at the corners with one out.
Albrent hit a grounder up the middle that was fielded cleanly by Laughner at short, though Albrent was able to beat the relay throw to give the Bulldogs the lead.
“A gutsy play by our shortstop,” said DP coach Mike Gerken after the game. “If we get the double play, we’re out of it. I thought we had a good chance at the double play and we turned it pretty well, but the girl just beat it out.
“We made a good play and the girl hustled down the line.”
The Chargers went in order in the bottom of the seventh.
Despite the loss, Corden thinks that the Chargers can have a special season.
“We have a lot of freshmen who are big, key players for this team,” she said. “It was really exciting to see them perform. We just didn’t really come up with the timely hits. We got a lot of people on base, just couldn’t get them over. We’re definitely looking to make a run for Channel League champions again and try to go deep in CIF. We definitely want to be playing deep into May, for sure.”
The Chargers won the Channel League in the 2019 season and went 19-7-1 and 14-0-1 in league, though lost in the first round of the playoffs. Gerken is hopeful that with a good group of seniors the team will be able to repeat last year’s success, while also taking that next step.
“Hopefully we win the first two (playoff games) and who knows what will happen after that,” he said “Let’s try to win two, that would be the goal because last year we only won one CIF game. If we can win two, that’s pretty good. Then maybe that momentum goes and we can take this kind of far. But we have some high hopes for the season and we fell we’ve got the kids who can take us where we want to go.”
With plenty of games left to play, Gerken told his team following the one-run loss that everything would work out in the long run.
“We’re a solid team,” he said. “We’re fundamental, we hit the ball well, pitch really well and play defense really well. This is softball, and softball is a one-run game. They executed at the time and we didn’t get that timely hit today. We had second and third three times and just couldn’t put one across, so we’re right there. Today we just didn’t get that hit when we needed to. I’m fully confident in our team and I know that we’re going to be successful. This is a great way to start. We’re going to play a competitive season and let’s start with a competitive team.”
As Corden embarks on her final season for the Chargers, she is hoping to leave a mark for years to come.
“I want to leave a legacy of winning,” she said. “Something our younger girls can look up to and keep going.”