Natalie Sahlstrom picked a good time to get her first base hits of the season.
The Turlock High senior entered Thursday’s Central California Athletic League game against rival Pitman having gone 0-for-11 this season. But a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning — her second hit of the contest — propelled Turlock to a wild 15-12 victory on cold and blustery day at the Pitman High field.
“It’s crazy, huh?” said Sahlstrom, who said she was expecting a first-pitch fastball from Pride pitcher Gaby Pacheco. “It’s been my experience that she puts the first pitch right down the middle.”
Sahlstrom was correct. Pacheco sent a first-pitch fastball right down Broadway, and the Bulldogs’ center fielder drove it over the wall in left-center.
Despite her recent struggles, Sahlstrom insisted she never got discouraged.
“I was confident,” she said. “I’m always confident. At least, I try to be.”
Sahlstrom was just one of the hitting stars for the Bulldogs, who pounded out 17 hits to overcome five errors.
Hailey Bacon, the CCAL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, also had been struggling entering the contest, hitting just .067 (1-for-15) on the year. But the junior catcher went 3-for-5 against the Pride, with pair of round-trippers and five runs batted in.
“There’s really no excuse for the way I’d been hitting,” said Bacon, who batted .368 with six circuit clouts last season. “I’ve been dropping my back shoulder, which causes me to slope backward and pop up everything. I made the changes today.”
Turlock pitcher Cadee Campbell struggled early and Pitman took advantage, racing to a 5-0 lead after two innings, with Addie Mettler (3-for-4, 2 RBIs) and Rylee Reeves (3-for-5, 6 RBIs) delivering run-producing hits over that span.
But the Bulldogs battled back and took a 6-5 lead in the top of the third, with Bacon’s first homer of the contest — a towering three-run jack to left-center — knotting the score 5-5.
Campbell struck out the side in the bottom of the frame and the Bulldogs picked up where they left off in the top of the fourth by adding four more runs to make it 10-5.
But Pitman wasn’t done.
The Pride scored two in their half of the fourth, then five in the fifth to take a 12-10 advantage. While trailing 10-9 with two runners on, Reeves stepped to the plate and lofted a fly ball that right fielder Marissa Mercado lost in the sun, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to cross home plate.
Want to see how brutal the sun was? Step outside and face west at about 5:50 p.m., then toss a ball in the air and try to catch it. Mercado was just one of a handful of players Thursday who had trouble with the glare.
Down by two in the sixth, Turlock pushed across five runs, highlighted by Sahlstrom’s two-run bomb.
Campbell then shut Pitman down over the final two innings.
“She told me, ‘Don’t pull me,” Turlock coach Brian Campbell said of a conversation he had with his pitcher late in the ballgame. “She was overthrowing early on, but she settled down and limited the walks.”
Ayla Lacerda was 4-for-4 with three runs scored for the Bulldogs, while teammates Lacy Holzik and Katelynn Thompson contributed two hits apiece.
For Pitman, Ella Underwood also had three hits, scoring three times and driving in a run.
With the victory, the Bulldogs improve to 3-4-1 overall and 2-1 in CCAL play, while the Pride drops to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in conference action.
The game originally was scheduled to be played at Turlock High, but was played across town at Pitman because the THS field was unusable after the recent rainstorm.