At the top of the sixth inning, Monache’s softball team trailed 3-1.
The Marauders still had a chance. Statistically. But Sanger pitcher Emily Fortaney had already struck out one batter and the outfield caught a ball from another, leaving Monache’s hopes for a turnaround of the May 7 playoff game on its next batter, senior Cieanna Correa.
Correa got a hit, a bouncing chopper that appeared it would disappear nicely between Apache defenders into center field. But Alyssa Montejano playing second base made one of the best plays of the game to change that scenario. Although the ball looked as if it had clear sailing, it didn’t. Montejano quickly sidestepped, dived sideways and somehow extended her glove, covering the distance using every millimeter of her body.
She caught the ball and tossed it to Maddy Mata without missing a step. Mata got the out.
The play ended the inning for the Marauders and likely killed any momentum they had to win a game that had been dominated by the Apaches on their home field.
Montejano said she just felt she could get that ball. “We practice most of those plays,” she said after the game. “And she (Mata) does it the other way around.”
Montejano said prior to that play, she was a little worried. A little. And the win? “If feels good,” she said.
Sanger has history with Monache. The Porterville team beat the Apaches at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond two years earlier, 6-1, in the California Interscholastic Federation Central Section Division II championship game. This manifested despite some extremely passionate fans who dominated the stadium seats and even camped out in the outfield behind the fence. (Shoutout to Candy Delfin and Breanna Barajas.)
And the Marauders topped the Apaches again this year at the Tulare Union Easter Tournament by a score of 7-2.
“Whenever we play a team a second time, we improve,” coach Erica Pennington said. “We held them the whole time. Really good for us.”
Pennington said her girls had to adjust to the slower pitches thrown by Monache. “That off-speed pitching is not our favorite,” she said.
Fortaney said working with catcher Katelyn Estep, who is a close friend, really helped her throw the right pitches for each batter. Estep said she uses facial expressions to telegraph the signal.
“We looked good on defense and offense,” Estep said. “It’s going to be harder, but we just have to push on.”
No. 8 seed Sanger advanced but lost in the quarter final to No. 1 Kingsburg on May 9. Score was 5-0.
The Monache win provided some vindication. Sanger continued to improve over the season, showcasing the skills of some very talented players. With just three seniors, Mata, Fortaney and Danessa Castro, the team should stay relatively intact for next year.
“It’s great we finally came together,” said Janiece Gallardo, a freshman. “We all just got along and cheered for each other.”
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