Haley Larsh waited for two things on Tuesday: Her ideal pitch and her opportunity to blast the game-winning hit for Lompoc High softball.
She got her moment – sending the ball toward the right center field gap and driving in the clinching run for the Braves in their 5-4 home win over Cabrillo in eight innings.
With her father cheering on from the home stands and giving her the nickname “The Larshinator,” plus older sister Hannah leading the dugout cheers, Larsh broke the fourth and final tie against a Conquistadores team that’s been fighting for the fourth and last guaranteed playoff spot among Los Padres League teams.
“I’ve always looked forward to this. I’ve always loved those kind of games,” Larsh said after her RBI smash. “It was my favorite pitch – it was a little bit high and little bit to the outside. I hit it and it felt really good.”
She wasn’t the only one who grew excited about seeing that pitch from Bella Jones. So was her head coach Marjie Ledgerwood.
“She’s been hitting the ball well all year. She likes that right center field gap. It was a clutch hit when we needed it,” Ledgerwood said.
Lompoc – 11-2 in the LPL and now riding a four-game winning streak – scored first in the bottom of the second on Jayden Andrade’s RBI that brought Mya Mendoza home. Cabrillo, though, responded immediately with Miiya Adames bringing Alexia Juarez-Wilhite home on her RBI single in the top of the fourth.
Alycia Lowery then broke the tie for Lompoc by taking advantage of an error at first base. Cabrillo’s Adames and Bianca Gonzalez got the Conquistadores to take their first lead of the game with their RBI singles in the top of the fifth.
The bottom of the seventh saw CHS respond with its back against the wall – seeing Lompoc load the bases with no outs but surrendering just one run – which was on Mariah Villalobos’ ground ball RBI. Cabrillo returned with a double play, including a tag of Heidi Cardenas at home plate, plus a fly out in the right outfield to prevent anymore scoring.
In the top of the eighth, Jones gave CHS its second lead change by pounding the single RBI and making it 4-3. But in the bottom of the eighth, Castaneda tied things up with her ground ball RBI that got Mendoza to charge home. Then along came Larsh, who got Castaneda to touch home plate for the final run of the evening.
Alexis “Lexi” Porter stood inside the circle for the Braves the whole way and picked up the win at pitcher – giving the senior her second victory in four days.
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Cabrillo – at 4-9 now in the LPL – is currently seated at fifth in the league standings. Cabrillo head coach Adrian Abayari said that his team looked more comfortable compared the Conqs team that lost 12-2 to LHS back on April 13.
“I expected a competitive game, considering this is a rivalry game. I think they were more at ease with playing against the same team again,” Abayari said. “We had plenty of opportunities to make the plays to back Bella up (who pitched a complete game). And we couldn’t come up with the outs we needed to. We just couldn’t make that last stop like we needed. I’m very proud of her for stepping in and doing what she does.”
There is this glimmer of hope for Cabrillo: Nipomo, the current fourth place team in the LPL, fell 16-9 against Santa Maria – dropping the Titans to 5-8 in the LPL. Cabrillo can manage to sneak away with the fourth place spot with this scenario this Thursday: A win over Orcutt Academy on the road and a Titans loss to first-place Templeton.
Abayari, though, doesn’t want his players to feel overwhelmed by the situation they’re in.
“We’re just going to play our game,” Abayari said. “If it takes care of itself, it takes care of itself.”
Laguna Blanca 17, Lompoc 1
In what LHS head coach Adam Milholland called a well-skilled team, Laguna Blanca ended the Braves’ boys tennis team season with the wildcard playoff win to open the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs on Tuesday.
The Braves’ first doubles team of Hunter Terrones and Jeremiah Munoz picked up the lone win for the visiting Braves.
“They (Laguna Blanca) were the better team,” Milholland said by phone in Santa Barbara. “The goal for us was to make it to CIF, which was what we did.”