Luera homers to lift Cienega over Buenaby Andy Morales on Apr. 09, 2012, under Sports
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Buena standout pitcher Kaitlin Wilson only gave up three hits to Cienega Monday night but that was all the Bobcats needed to improve their power-point record to 10-2 in Division I play.
Wilson recorded the first of her seven strikeouts to open the game but a single by freshman Shelby Kennedy set the tone for what came next. Kennedy subsequently stole second base but was tagged out by as she slid past the bag for the second out of the inning.
As is usually the case, the next batter came in and singled to center field and that batter was senior Stephanie Tatham. Senior left-hander Valerie Luera came up to bat with two outs and one on against one of the top pitchers in the state.
“I was going up to bat looking for a single,” explained Luera. “I knew we needed to get at least one run against Buena and I was just hoping to move Stephanie over. I had no idea the ball went over the fence.”
And it did. The home run was a high floater that kept going until it landed just over the center field fence, good enough for a 2-0 lead over Buena. Besides a three-base error to start off the bottom of the second inning, it was the last base runner Cienega would get off of Wilson.
Cienega started the game with freshman pitcher Kayla Green. Green came in with a sore shoulder so she was put on a pitch count but she still managed to hold Buena to one run in four innings.
The Colts did have their chances, however, but Green always found a way to close things out. Danielle Stensby reached on a two-out walk in the top of the first inning and Wilson reached on an error but Green induced a pop up to end the threat.
Salana Thomas reached on a one-out infield hit in the top of the third inning and then moved to second base on a passed ball. Green struck out the next batter for the second out but then Stensby reached on a hit by pitch.
Wilson followed with an RBI single up the middle to cut the lead down to 2-1. Green came back and forced another pop up to end the inning with two runners on.
Jade Allee singled to open up the top of the fourth inning and then stole second base. Jasmin Rodriguez bunted her over to third base for the first out. Buena was unable to come up with a ground ball with one out and Green forced another pop up and grounder back to her to end the inning with the tying run left on third base.
As noted before, Wilson also frustrated Cienega in a similar situation after freshman catcher Melanie Cross reached on a three-base error to center field with no outs. Cienega, like Buena, could not find a way to hit a grounder to the right side against Wilson.
Wilson induced a pop up and then struck out two batters to end that threat.
Green had reached her pitch limit and she gave way to Sarah Andrews who was also being watched closely due to a pelvic injury.
Green went from being an eighth grader one day to starting against one of the top teams and pitchers in the state the next but it was something she said she knew would happen.
“I made myself think I was going to make varsity during tryouts so I knew it was going to happen,” said Green. “I feel pretty successful now although I started this game with my location.”
Cienega coach Eric Tatham had figured Green would, in fact, be his junior varsity pitcher but he changed his mind after he saw the 5-foot-10 at practice. “She is maturing really fast,” he said.
Andrews shut down five batters in a row before she gave up a hit to Allee in the sixth inning. Nothing came of that hit but Cindy Chon led off the top of the seventh with a walk and Buena was back in business with one of the fastest players in the division on base.
Andrews forced a pop fly but Thomas followed with another walk to put two on with one out and Chon standing on second base. The only thing that could have stopped Buena’s momentum at this point was a double-play and that’s what happened as Tatham picked up a ground ball from her short stop position, stepped on second base and then threw to Ali Subia at first to end the game as Chon was racing home.
The 2-1 victory partially avenged a 14-10 loss the Bobcats suffered at Buena on March 5 where Wilson defeated Green in a game that featured 30 hits, six errors, nine doubles and five home runs.
Cienega was down 5-0 in the first inning of that game and battled back twice and ultimately to an 11-10 deficit in the sixth inning before Buena put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
“A lot of teams fold when they go down,” explained coach Tatham. “These girls have a lot of fight and they scratch back, even when we lose. They always make it a good game.”
Tatham picked five freshmen and four sophomores to help fill out his roster, knowing he had six seniors he had to replace and it has worked wonders.
“I didn’t want my talented freshmen to come and have their first year of varsity as sophomores,” explained Tatham. “They are a good group as you can see.”
Luera is used to having seniors dominate but she agrees with Tatham’s assessment.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” she said. “We have a lot of young girls this year and they stepped up. We now have big expectations and we have grown closer.”
The Bobcats appear to have grown into a first-round bye if the season ended to day but they still have several big games left on their schedule including a rematch at Sunnyside on Thursday and then three difficult games against Douglas, Sabino and Sahuaro in a row.
Buena has a slightly easier road the rest of the way but they have a game against Sahuaro scheduled for Tuesday night at home.
This game featured a lot of athletes who are headed to the next level.
That list includes several who have signed: Tatham (Colorado Christian), Luera (Yavapai), Angelica Somoza (Adams State), Alyssa Guevara (Pima), Hannah Alcocer (Pima), Wilson (Miami, Ohio).
The Cienega baseball team came in during the third inning of the softball game, fresh from their 8-6 victory over Sahuaro in a game that had to be finished due to darkness earlier in the season. Cienega scored five unearned runs in the top of the ninth inning for the win.