Last weekend was a big one for rivalries. The most publicized one, the Pomona-Pitzer vs. CMS men’s basketball game, was the highest attended 5C sporting event during the weekend.
Hours before Saturday’s basketball game, however, another set of rivals squared off: the softball teams of Pomona-Pitzer (1-5, 0-4 SCIAC) and CMS (7-2, 4-0 SCIAC). On Pomona’s diamond, the stakes of a second rivalry were added to the usual Sixth Street tension. Melanie Gularte PI ’10 and younger sister Rebecca Gularte SC ’12 were seated in opposite dugouts. In the first of two games in the afternoon, they shared the mound, as each was the starting pitcher for their respective squads. The Sixth Street Rivalry was only part of the story—this was also for Gularte family bragging rights.
This is nothing new for the two star pitchers: competition has always been a big part of their relationship. The dynamic is not limited to the diamond, as Rebecca said even family card games and board games can get heated. Saturday, however, was more important than the most vicious Monopoly game. The sisters had only squared off once before as opposing pitchers, according to their parents, and that was in a travel team game over three years ago. In that game, Melanie edged out younger sister Rebecca 2-1.
This was something totally different, however. Melanie said the game “was definitely a new experience for me. I didn’t think too much about it when I was on the mound, but it was weird to look up from the dugout and see [Rebecca] out there.”
The crowd knew it too. The buzz around home plate acknowledged the added family element, and if the fans weren’t aware beforehand, the striking resemblance of the women on the mound might have given it away. This is not to say that the two are not distinctive. With a calm, smooth delivery, the older and taller Melanie (5’8”) embodies the older sibling and crafty veteran role model perfectly. The 5’4” Rebecca, on the other hand, pitches with a chip on her shoulder, wielding a much more aggressive approach, a more exotic delivery, and a tad more emotion on the field.
Melanie was hit first, as CMS took the lead in the first on an RBI groundout by Amanda Banducci SC ‘12. The Sagehens immediately responded, scoring on an RBI single from Alexis Garcia PI ’11.
Then both pitchers settled in.
Melanie struggled a bit to find the strike zone early, walking two batters in the first as well as two of the first three batters in the second, but as she began to hit her spots with off-speed pitches, things began to click. She allowed base runners but pitched smartly and managed to get out of multiple jams, striking out three and allowing only two hits over the next three frames. Rebecca also worked efficiently, pitching to contact and allowing only two base runners in the second and third innings.
In the fourth, the younger sister got into some trouble but managed to limit the damage. The Sagehens loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth on two consecutive singles to left field from Kathryn Rabak PO ’13 and Brianna Marcantoni PO ’12 and a botched play on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Emily Buika PI ’12. PP then broke the 1-1 tie by scoring a run on an RBI groundout from Jamie Golberg PO ’11
High pitch counts and walks caught up with veteran Melanie and the Sagehens in the fifth, as two walks turned into two Athena runs. Harmony Palmer CM ’13 drew a tough ten-pitch walk that proved killer for Melanie. After another runner reached on balls, Emily Lopez CM ’12 lined a double to left, scoring two and giving the Athenas a 3-2 lead.
Carolyn Cross PO ’13 pitched two scoreless innings, but the Athenas and Rebecca Gularte would not surrender the lead. Melanie Gularte finished with five gutsy innings, giving up three runs on five hits and striking out four on a whopping ninety-seven pitches.
Rebecca Gularte threw all seven innings in an efficient and impressive ninety-three-pitch complete-game win, allowing only two runs on six hits and complementing her performance with two strikeouts.
Rebecca tried to hide her enthusiasm after the win, and she certainly won with humility, but it was clear that she was excited about beating her longtime rival and role model.
“It was that much more exciting. Pitching against someone who has pitched so well all her life—to come out on top is that much sweeter,” Rebecca said.
It will certainly be a big source of bragging rights in the Gularte family, as Melanie described her sister’s longtime desire to shed the tag of “Melanie’s little sister” and prove she is more than just a smaller “Mel.”
The loss was disappointing for Melanie, but like any wise senior and captain, she took it in stride. Acknowledging that her sister being on the opposing team added an extra dimension to the game, she said “at the end of the day, I’d like to beat any and every team that I face. For me, it’s more about the batters that I face, and concentrating on doing my best to win every pitch.”
Sagehen coach Joanne Ferguson called Melanie “a fierce competitor who loves to win. She is a bulldog on the mound for us and gives each game everything she has… Mel always approaches each game ‘one pitch at a time’ no matter who the opponent is.”
It is always nice to see a loss taken with such perspective, as must have been the case for the Gularte parents who sat nervously in the back row of the stands. Both were noticeably lacking any team-colored clothing. No blue, orange, or red clothing—only the neutral San Francisco Giants hat worn by the sisters’ father.
“I was hoping for a 0-0 twenty-inning game postponed on account of darkness, but I guess you can’t always get your wish,” their mother, Candice Gularte, said after the game.
While Melanie realizes she has been a role model to Rebecca, she knows she has a lot to learn—even, or perhaps especially from her sister. After Saturday, Melanie, who could now be described as “Rebecca’s older sister,” still has a chance to win Gularte bragging rights back: the Sagehens walk north to CMC to face the Athenas in conference play on Apr. 4. If Melanie wins next time, who knows—they could always face off one last time in the SCIAC tournament.