Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High senior Nikki Klepper watches a ball she fouled off late in last week’s CCS softball semifinal game.
While the Los Altos High softball team’s lone error loomed large in last week’s Central Coast Section Division II semifinal, the fifth-seeded Eagles’ lack of productivity at the plate sealed their fate in the 2-1 loss to No. 8 Gilroy.
Los Altos mustered just three hits and stranded seven runners, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth inning of the May 22 game at San Jose’s PAL Stadium.
“We didn’t take advantage of opportunities,” coach Tom Barrera said. “We got runners in scoring position and didn’t come through with the timely hit. You need to execute in those situations, and we just didn’t do a good job executing.”
Except for the first inning.
With two away in the bottom of the frame, Eagles cleanup hitter Tianna Vasquez ripped a ground-rule double (the ball bounced over the centerfield fence) to score catcher Jasmine Pedroza, who led off with a walk and stole second base.
“It was an inside pitch and it was low, and I usually hit the low pitches better,” said Vasquez, a senior shortstop headed to Willamette University. “I just went up there looking to start a rally, and that’s what I did.”
The 1-0 lead wouldn’t last for long. The Mustangs tied it up in the second on Cristyn Simpson’s two-out double down the first-base line, which scored Holly Lam from second.
Los Altos pitcher Lizzy Beutter kept Gilroy in check for the next four innings. The freshman – who struck out three and walked two in a complete-game effort – didn’t allow another runner past first base until the seventh when the Mustangs scored the unearned run that won the game.
Gilroy freshman Anna Gamboa led off the seventh with a triple to center and the next batter, Nicole Green, hit a ground ball to third baseman Marialena Ahern. The junior faked throwing to first in hopes of catching Gamboa off base, but her hard toss to Vasquez (covering third) bounced off the Eagles’ dugout fence. Gamboa raced home, beating the throw to Pedroza.
Although the Eagles (18-10-2) threatened in the bottom of the seventh – Nikki Klepper walked and Pedroza singled with two outs before freshman Kaya Agustin struck out – their best chance to score another run had come two innings earlier.
Beutter drew a one-out walk in the fifth and moved to third on back-to-back errors by Gilroy (18-12) that allowed Klepper to reach base on a grounder and advance to second. After Natalie Hollenbaugh struck out, Pedroza walked to load the bases. But Mustangs pitcher Lauren Castro got out of the jam by getting Agustin to ground out.
Castro, a hard-throwing sophomore, notched eight strikeouts while going the distance.
“She was definitely one of the better pitchers we’ve seen this season,” Vasquez said.
Castro’s defense saved her from surrendering a second hit to Vasquez. Los Altos’ co-team captain belted a ball to deep right field with one away in the fourth, only to see Rachel Tomlinson track it down.
“That girl just made a spectacular catch in right field,” Barrera said. “That would have turned into a double, if not more.”
Just another oh-so-close moment for the Eagles, knocked out of the playoffs by Gilroy for the second consecutive season.
“We worked really, really hard, and I don’t think we deserved the loss,” Vasquez said, “but that’s what happened.”