Hilmar High’s softball team hosted first place Hughson High on Tuesday in a Trans Valley League matchup the Yellowjackets needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Unfortunately for the 'Jackets, they were unable to close out the game that saw a seven-run seventh inning performance by the Huskies.
With two outs, two runners in scoring position and a 4-3 lead, the ‘Jackets made a pitching change, however, the Hughson batters were taking smart pitches and three more pitching changes were made before the inning would end and the Huskies tacked on seven to edge out the ‘Jackets 10-4.
“We just thought it would be a better matchup with a new hitter and pitcher, but obviously it didn’t turn out the way we hoped,” Hilmar head coach Taylor Hiyama said.
Again, the ‘Jackets failed to finish a game during a critical situation as they have now lost five games this season by a single run, along with a handful of other close games.
Hughson (4-1, TVL) came into the game having allowed the least amount of runs (6) before allowing Hilmar (2-4) to notch four in a single contest.
The final score is deceiving as the ‘Jackets were up in the seventh with a one-run lead and two outs, however, with two runners in scoring position, a pass ball allowed the Huskies to take the 5-4 lead and from there on it was trouble for Hilmar.
“After that incident at home it all just came crumbling down and we couldn’t stop the bleeding, they ended up scoring so many runs in a matter of minutes. After the pass ball the girls couldn’t mentally stay in the game—they just couldn’t,” Hiyama said about the seventh inning collapse.
Hughson took a 3-1 lead in the fifth, but the ‘Jackets came back in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead right back after scoring three consecutive runs after Jazzlyn Ayala-Baca belted a two-run double to deep left center to tie it at 3-3.
The fourth run for Hilmar came from Marta Mitchell’s RBI single to drive in Ayala-Baca, but that would be the only offense left in the tank for the ‘Jackets who failed to produce anything afterwards.
On defense, Ayala-Baca and Val Ewing made countless stops, which could have resulted in more runs being scored by Hughson early on, but they kept it together until the end.
“I am confident that we can beat any team in our league, we have been there with every single team we have faced this year. We have had many one run games. We are still in it. We can win every single game after this,” Hiyama said.
The ‘Jackets postseason hopes are still alive, but after Tuesday’s meltdown, the pressure is on as they will need to win out in hopes of capturing that third seed in the TVL.
“It’s the way we come out and start the game. We need to be the same team we are in the fifth, sixth and so forth and then we will be fine if we do that,” Hilmar assistant head coach Kevin Orosco said.
Every game from here on out will be huge as the ‘Jackets will battle in back-to-back contests against the Modesto Christian Crusaders starting with a home game at 4 p.m. Thursday.
“We are definitely still in the hunt, we got big games coming up, it will start with winning our next two to guarantee any hope at all. It’s not about championships right now, it is about making the playoffs and once we get in there we know we can beat anybody there it just means we need to get to that point,” Orosco added.