Walk Off Home Run Secures Sagehens a Split With Lutes

Pomona-Pitzer center/infielder Sam Carlson PO '18 prepares to catch a ball from a Pacific Lutheran University opponent in the season opener game on Feb. 3. (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life)Just an hour after a 9-0 trampling at the hands of Pacific Lutheran University in the first game of their season-opening double-header, the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens softball team was down 4-2 at the bottom of the seventh inning, and the situation looked as bleak as the pouring gray sky last Friday, Feb. 3.

But when Liz Rodarte PZ ’19—last year’s SCIAC Co-Rookie of the Year and First-Team All-SCIAC pitcher—approached the plate, head coach JoAnne Ferguson had faith.

“[Rodarte is] one of those athletes that you know when she steps up, something special’s going to happen,” Ferguson said.

She did not disappoint. Rodarte smashed the ball over the fence behind center field, sending herself, Kendal Kipper PO ’20, and Sofia Baig PO ’17 home to give P-P a 5-4 win over the Lutes.

“You can’t always bank on walk-off home runs, but it’s great … to get us some good offensive momentum heading into this weekend,” Ferguson said.

The veteran coach, who has only seen two teams make the postseason SCIAC tournament in her 11 years, hopes that this year’s squad will be the third. Last year, the Sagehens fell just short.       

“It literally came down to the last double-header of the season,” Ferguson said. “We had to win both games at Whittier [College]. We won the first game and we lost the second. So we were right there.”

Coming so close to the playoffs was tough, but Ferguson is focused on the future—which is young. P-P has added seven promising new faces, and Ferguson is excited for the exuberance they will bring.

“Freshmen usually come in with a ton of energy and usually in pretty good shape and uninjured, hopefully, so that helps with just getting some new life and some new energy,” she said. “They don’t know the conference, so they don’t have perspective, and they can kind of just go in playing without any thought or worry. You just play the game like you always have.”

Aside from three returning sophomores and six juniors, Ferguson is counting on experienced seniors Baig and Bianca Cockrell PO ’17 to lead the way.

“I’m excited about how [the seniors] lead by example every day, and then also just their strong vocal [and] organizational leadership,” Ferguson said.

In the outfield, Ferguson will rely on the experience of Baig and the speed of Missy Pekarek PZ ‘18, who Ferguson said will be called upon to “catch any ball hit in the area of Claremont.”

Kristen Hong PZ ‘19 has “already shown great leadership at second base,” while Isabella Deatherage PO ‘20 will start at shortstop; Ferguson says the team needs her to “play like a senior at that position.”

On the mound, Cockrell—last year’s offensive player of the year—and Rodarte—who will “be in the lineup at all times”—are expected to lead the Sagehens. Ferguson is particularly excited about new left-handed pitcher Alondra Reynoso PZ ‘20, who helped P-P win the second game Saturday and has “already shown just some great experience on the mound.”

On offense, Kelsey Buchanan PO ‘18 is a designated hitter and has “a lot of pop with her bat,” while third basewoman Sam Carlson PO ‘18 has “that home-run hitting bat [and] can come in and change the game with one swing.”

With such versatility available to her, Ferguson is confident about the upcoming season.

“We have multiple people who can do multiple things, so there’s a lot of great options for me as the head coach in terms of lineups … adding some fluidity to the game,” she said.

The Sagehens next play the University of Puget Sound in a double-header Friday, Feb. 10 before opening conference play against Chapman University at home on Saturday, Feb. 18.