After tearing through the SCIAC and amassing a 13-3 record in the conference entering last weekend’s home matchups against Occidental College (11-18-1, 16-4 SCIAC) and La Verne University (20-12, 15-5 SCIAC), the Sagehens softball team (25-9, 16-6 SCIAC) hit a roadblock.
P-P dropped both games of Friday’s doubleheader, losing 4-2 and 14-3. Saturday, the Sagehens fell to the Leopards 3-2 in game one, before coming back to win the last game of the challenging weekend 7-5.
The Sagehens were in first place in the SCIAC and entered Friday’s matchup riding an eight-game win streak. It appeared the team was more than ready for the doubleheader against the Tigers.
The Sagehen offense started out slow against Oxy in the first half of the twin bill. They were unable to get on the board until the sixth, when Natalie Ireland PZ ’18 hit a two RBI single into left field, cutting the Tigers’ 4-0 lead in half. But that was all the offense the team could muster.
In game two of the doubleheader, the Tigers kept the pressure on P-P, putting up three runs in the first inning. The Sagehens cut the lead to 4-2 in the second inning, but from that point on it was all Oxy.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to prevent their runners from advancing while on defense and struggled ourselves with getting on base and scoring runs to chip away at their lead,” Olivia Campion PZ ’20 said.
The Tigers continued to extend their lead with five runs in the third, and four more in the sixth, putting the game out of reach for the hosts. The 11-run defeat was the largest of the year for the Sagehens.
After the back-to-back losses, P-P faced a much more formidable opponent in La Verne in two games the next day. The Leopards were nipping at the Sagehens’ heels in the SCIAC standings, sitting only a game out of first place.
“The entire team knew that the level of performance against Oxy could not be carried into our games against La Verne the following day if we wanted to keep our spot at the top of SCIAC,” Campion said.
Despite their renewed motivation, the Sagehen offense once again sputtered to a start; P-P didn’t score its first run until the fourth, which tied the game. In the top of the seventh, the Sagehens took their first lead in their last 20 innings, as Campion’s sacrifice fly drove home Baleigh McCuskey PO ’19.
“I was really just trying to hit a good pitch to the right side and get the run across,” Campion said. “It was an extremely tight game so I knew that getting the run across was important but I did not think that it would determine the outcome of the game.”
But the Leopards weren’t done. A double from Justice Borden to open the bottom of the seventh set up the tying run, and Rachel Ogata’s single brought her home. Two batters later, the Leopards drove in Ogata and secured the walk-off victory.
With the SCIAC standings tied at the top, P-P was slow to recover from the late loss and once again fell behind early in game two.
The Sagehens were trailing 4-0 entering the fourth inning, when Liz Rodarte’s PZ ’19 two-run shot over the right field wall woke up the offense. Later in the inning, Julia Maya PO ’21 sent Kendall Kipper PO ’20 home from second with an RBI double to pull the Sagehens within one.
“I think the home run definitely started a spark in our team and showed them that if we start chipping away at the score we can make a comeback,” Rodarte said.
Alondra Reynoso PZ ’20 picked up three quick outs on the mound for the P-P, and the Sagehens bats stayed hot in the top of the fifth.
After Rodarte singled to bring in the first run of the inning, Izzy Deatherage PO ’20 hit her fifth home run of the year, bringing home Rodarte and Campion, and give the Sagehens a 7-4 lead. La Verne managed one solo home run in the bottom of the inning but couldn’t score the rest of the way.
“It was so important to us to get a win after three losses to keep our spirits up,” Rodarte said. “It kept us believing in ourselves knowing that we belong at the top and deserve to stay there.”
With the win P-P, regained control of the top spot in the SCIAC. The team will next face Whittier College (19-12-1, 12-8 SCIAC) on the road Friday.