Every player on the current Stockdale softball team was in junior high or elementary school the last time the Mustangs lost to a Southwest Yosemite League opponent. It’s been nearly four calendar years and 51 games since it happened.
That streak was nearly snapped Wednesday — if not for a seeing-eye base hit in the fifth inning by a first-year starter, the Mustangs may have started the league slate this year in the loss column.
Kaitlyn Hornbuckle’s single to short center field with the bases loaded was the game-winner. Her twin sister, Sydney, struck out nine in the circle as Stockdale beat Centennial 2-1 on the road in the Mustangs' SWYL opener.
“We are going to take (this win) as a learning experience and try to just explode from here,” Mustangs' head coach Amanda Hockett said. “We need to get excited more about the little victories that we had throughout the game and make those bigger throughout the games.”
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Faith Hall reached base on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a single for Kim Mireles, the ninth batter in the Stockdale (6-3, 1-0) lineup.
Centennial (4-5, 0-2) elected to intentionally walk top-of-the-order hitter Sydney Hornbuckle to load the bases before Kaitlyn Hornbuckle sent home Hill and Mireles for the first two runs of the game.
“I full-on believed Kaitlyn was going to do something to at least move the runners,” Sydney Hornbuckle said. “When they loaded the bases, I said, ‘That’s their mistake … ‘ I pointed to Kaitlyn when she was up to bat. I told her, ‘I believe in you. You got this.’ I didn’t doubt for one second that she would do something.”
While Sydney Hornbuckle was using a variety of fastball and offspeed pitches to keep the Centennial hitters off balance, the Mustangs weren’t able to get a rhythm going against Paris Williamson.
“I think our bats will come around,” Hockett said. “We struggled offensively, but once we get into a groove, the girls will hit the ball better and we we will get some more run support.”
After four years of being the SWYL favorite, the new norm of grinding out one-run wins in league could take some getting used to for the Mustangs.
“It’s a little different, especially with our bats,” Sydney Hornbuckle said. “We just need to hit and rally. We did rally — it was off a little blooper — but hey, whatever works.”
Centennial cut the lead to 2-1 on an RBI single by Tiana Gonzalez — the ball hit a divot in the infield and bounced over the head of Stockdale second baseman Lexi Rolin.
The hit scored Bethany Cobain who, during the first inning, just missed hitting a home run. The game's lone extra base hit connected off the top of the left field fence, just inches from going over the wall.
“This is an eye-opener for league,” Sydney Hornbuckle said. “I think it makes us realize more that we need to be Stockdale. We weren’t us today as much. If we get loud and be ourselves more, we will be OK.”