‘It’s just a game’: Claremont softball teams gain perspective during rivalry weekend

Liz Rodarte PZ ’19 gets a hit off of fellow pitcher Chloe Amarilla CM ’19 in the first inning of the CMS 3-2 win over P-P. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

After defeating rival Pomona-Pitzer in both games of a doubleheader Saturday, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ All-American pitcher Chloe Amarilla CM ’19 acknowledged that softball wasn’t the only thing on the teams’ minds.

“The wins this weekend meant something completely different than they ever have because of what has happened on campus in the past two weeks,” she said, regarding the recent deaths of two CMC students.

The Sixth Street rivalry is unique in its proximity, which brings its own set of superficial challenges — like gameday dining hall interactions with opponents. But following the tragic events on campus, the close relationship between the schools uplifted both teams.

“We were all so happy to be playing P-P this weekend, because we felt like they were the only team in the conference that would know what we were going through,” said Amarilla, the Athenas’ starting pitcher in game one.

Maddie Valdez CM ’21 makes a clutch out in front of the P-P dugout in the Athenas’ 3-2 win over the Sagehens on Friday, March 2. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

Both games of the weekend doubleheader were close, with the first dragging into the 10th inning before CMS won 3-2 on a Meghan Perron CM ’21 walk-off single. The Athenas took the second 2-0 after a clutch sixth inning two-run home run from Maddie Valdez CM ’21.

“I knew when I went to pitch that I was going to give it everything I physically had, but I just had to hope that my team could pick me up because I knew I was mentally and emotionally absent,” Amarilla said. “My team was there for me in a way they never could have been before.”

The dark weeks have put into perspective what really matters for the Athenas.

“In light of recent events, our team has banded together and found softball as an escape,” Amarilla said. “We just decided to have fun and stop putting so much pressure on ourselves, because at the end of the day it’s just a game.”

While the individual competitions might be trivial, the relationships forged through the sport are not. The star pitchers for CMS and P-P built a bond through softball years before they came to the 5Cs.

Claremont natives Amarilla and Liz Rodarte PZ ’19 were childhood competitors whose academic and athletic goals kept them both close to home.

“I’ve known Liz since we were 10 years old,” Amarilla said. “We went to the same pitching coach, and when we were little we would compete against each other all the time, like who was pitching the fastest, who would get recruited first.”

“[Amarilla] is an amazing person and it’s funny to play against her now at the college level,” Rodarte said. “Having that friendly competition makes the games that much more enjoyable.”

The P-P pitching ace, who also went 6-for-6 at the plate Saturday, said both teams are able to have fun with the sport.

“The Athenas are really good at playing with joy, and you can see that in the way that they approach the games,” Rodarte said. “We always have fun too. Even when we have to go to 5 a.m. practices to get ahead of the rain, we are always laughing and enjoying each other.”

Michelle Calcany Blair PZ ’21 makes an over-the-shoulder catch in deep center field, helping the P-P team to keep the Athenas scoreless for six innings. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

The pitchers have led their squads to the top of the SCIAC. While CMS has historically had a stronger softball program, the rivalry has heated up in the past few years.

Going into the 2019 season, the SCIAC preseason rankings had P-P slotted first, followed by CMS. After the Athenas’ sweep Saturday, CMS jumped to No. 15 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association rankings, while P-P fell three spots to No. 14.

Both Amarilla and Rodarte believe that the SCIAC champions will come from Claremont, and each see their Sixth Street rival as their closest competitor for the title.

Even following an Athena shutout in the rivalry matchup, both teams remain confident in their abilities to take the SCIAC title. Amarilla admitted that the way the games on Friday unfolded showed that P-P is still a very close competitor.

“P-P has a terrifying lineup,” she said. “Those games really could have gone either way. After the game, our coaches told us, ‘that’s going to be the SCIAC championship.’”

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