With two outs in the bottom of the second Thursday, nobody on base and the bottom third of the order due up, it would have been easy for Independence’s softball team to start preparing for the next inning.
Not these Falcons.
Independence struck with some serious two-out lightning, recording six consecutive singles and four runs to spark an 8-2 victory over Liberty-Madera Ranchos in the Central Section Division III quarterfinals.
“Honestly, that’s just what we do,” junior Aariyana Egan said. “We get on, we battle, we just always fight. And as soon as somebody gets a hit, that fire starts, and we want to keep going.”
No. 2-seeded Independence (20-7) will play host to No. 3 Tehachapi in the D-III semifinals Tuesday. The teams split the South Yosemite League title.
“We’ve played some great games against them this year, and they’ve played great against us,” Independence coach Mike D’Amato said. “I’m sure this will be the same.”
Liberty-Madera Ranchos (12-14) got the first two outs of the second inning without a problem. Then No. 7 hitter Cindy Sanchez hit a seemingly harmless single. But when she moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Erylin Campos’ RBI single, the rally was on. Elise Ontiveros singled home Campos, and Egan, Jessica Munoz and Nicole Price followed with hits of their own. Suddenly, it was 4-0.
The Falcons added four more runs in the fourth inning, with Egan settling for an RBI triple to right field after missing a home run by a couple of feet and Lydia Velasquez driving home two runs with a single up the middle.
That was more than enough support for starting pitcher Jocelyn Reyes (8-2), who allowed two earned runs on four hits in six innings.
She didn’t strike anyone out, but that worked just fine for the Independence defense, which didn’t commit an error and made several sterling plays.
“We just have a lot of good team chemistry, and we have fun out there,” said Egan, whom teammates call Pal because she played in the Police Athletic League.
Egan finished 3 for 4 with two runs and an RBI, and Ontiveros, Munoz and Price had two hits each. Madi Devine hit a two-run double in the sixth inning for Liberty-Madera Ranchos, but she was the third out at third base trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
Independence was the No. 8 seed in Division III last year when it stunned No. 1 Liberty-Madera Ranchos in the quarterfinals and beat No. 4 Tehachapi in the semifinals before losing the championship game. Now, with eight starters back from that team, the Falcons won their first league championship and can follow a similar path to the finals at Bulldog Diamond – and hope to finish the job this time.
“We’ve been the doormat of the league,” D’Amato said. “For other teams, it’s been, ‘Oh, we’re playing Independence. That’s a W.’ But we’re respected from the north to the south now. We believe in the players and trust them, and they trust us.”