Softball: Lowell moves into first-place tie with Washington with wild win

Lowell senior Michelle Willis (left) sends a pitch into the outfield against Washington on Thursday at Rossi Recreation Center. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

Lowell senior Michelle Willis (left) sends a pitch into the outfield against Washington on Thursday at Rossi Recreation Center. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

By Jeremy Balan

As crazy as the events and linescore of the final regular-season meeting between Academic Athletic Association softball powers Lowell and Washington were, only one fact really mattered.

The Cardinals evened the score.

After dropping their first meeting 13-3, Lowell responded with a 11-9 win over Washington on Thursday at Rossi Recreation Center.

The win moves Lowell into a first-place tie with the Eagles (both are 12-1 in AAA play) in the AAA’s A Division and a drawing later this week will determine which will hold the top seed in the league playoffs.

Lowell junior starting pitcher Majenta Strongheart winds up for a pitch against Washington on Thursday at Rossi Recreation Center. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

Trailing 9-8 in the top of the seventh inning, the Cardinals were down to their last out and didn’t have a runner on base, but the rally started with senior Michelle Willis.

Willis walked on five pitches, then sophomore Gretel Gunther lined a 3-2 pitch to center field to put the tying run on third base. Madison Donahue-Wolf followed with a bloop single to left field just beyond the reach of the Washington infielders to score the tying run and sophomore Samantha Yee plated the go-ahead runs with a ground-ball single to right.

“I don’t ever give up, but I have to say I held my breath in the top of the seventh inning,” said Lowell head coach Sascha Ray. “I didn’t know how much we had left in us. We were down on their home field on their senior day.”

Washington got the tying run on with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Willis, who took over pitching duties in the fourth inning, got Washington’s Alice Cen to pop up to second base to seal the win. An inning before, the Eagles broke a 8-8 tie on a bloop RBI single of their own from Theodora Pasion.

The final innings were full of drama, but were set up by a dizzying day of errors, misplays and mistakes. The stats speak to some, as the teams combined for 21 hits and 16 errors, and the game featured four lead changes and three ties.

There was a catcher’s interference, a runner called out for leaving a base with the pitcher in the circle and two balls were thrown out of play into the left-field stands, which do not have a fence shielding them. Washington had more errors (nine) than hits (eight) and Lowell left 11 runners on base.

“Bizarre things happened all day and we didn’t play very good defense,” said Washington head coach Carrie Wert. “It’s like we were a step behind. We played them flawless last game, but we didn’t bring our A game today. “

Willis led the Cardinals at the plate with a game-high four runs and three hits, and pitched the final four innings after starter Majenta Strongheart was removed after allowing four runs (one earned) through the first three.

“It was just crazy,” Ray said. “We knew it was going to be a great game and we didn’t feel as much pressure, because they were playing for an undefeated season.”

Barring a momentous upset, the two teams will meet again in the league championship game, scheduled for May 8 at San Francisco State. The matchup would be the fourth straight meeting between the two teams in the title game.

“They weren’t perfect out there either and I still think we’re the better team all-around, but we’re going to have to perform,” Wert said. “We can’t perform like we did today.”

Scoring Summary

First Inning
L – Gretel Gunther hits a sacrifice fly, Kelly Wong scores. Michelle Willis scores on a throwing error.
W – Megan Chiem reaches on an error, Alice Cen scores
W – Theodora Pasion reaches on an error, Mari Kawano scores

Second Inning
W – Emma Archer-Duste triples, Maggie Lam scores
W – Kawano singles, Archer-Duste scores

Third Inning
L – Gunther homers
L – Majenta Strongheart lines out on a bunt, Madison Donahue-Wolfe and and Samantha Yee score on a throwing error

Fourth Inning
L – Donahue-Wolfe singles, Willis scores
W – Katherine Monterrosa scores on a throwing error
W – Kawano doubles, Cen scores
W – Blando singles, Kawano scores
W – Chiem triples, Blando scores

Sixth Inning
L – Donahue-Wolfe reaches on an error, Willis scores
L – Vanessa Lee grounds out, Donahue-Wolfe scores
W – Pasion singles, Blando scores

Seventh Inning
L – Donahue-Wolfe singles, Willis scores
L – Yee singles, Gunther scores. Donahue-Wolfe scores on a throwing error

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