Brittany Dean of Shadow Hills (6) is caught in a pickle between second and third base Thursday afternoon during a game at La Quinta High School. Shadow Hills Knights played a double header against the Blackhawks, with La Quinta winning the afternoon game 7-5.
With La Quinta and Shadow Hills in separate leagues and the Lady Knights ranked in the CIF Southern Section polls this season, Thursday night’s softball double-header between two of the top teams in the valley meant that much more.
Blackhawks coach DeDe Grutz said there was plenty of online trash talk back and forth this week about who was the better team, and with the help of plenty of offense accompanied with skilled pitching, her squad grabbed two wins Thursday at home, beating Shadow Hills 7-5 and 4-1.
“The girls were very fired up for this game, just because they have a lot of friends on that team, and there’s been a lot of talk back and forth on social media about who’s the better team in the valley,” Grutz said. “It was nice to show that, at least today, we are the better team.”
In the first game, La Quinta (6-9) jumped on Shadow Hills (8-7, 2-0 in De Anza) early, with the help of a two-run home run from Mia Olvera that also brought in Salena Salinas to take a 2-0 lead.
Olvera struck again in the second, connecting on an RBI single that brought in Kora Compton, who turned around and hit an RBI single of her own in the third inning, as the Blackhawks took a comfortable 4-1 lead.
The lead continued to grow to 7-1 after the fifth, but it was then that Grutz noticed her starting pitcher, Star Padilla, looked tired. The Lady Knights scored one off an RBI single from Sabrina Simental, and in the top of the seventh, things started to look shaky.
Padilla gave up two singles and hit a batter to start the top half of the inning, and Briana Avila brought in Anissa Guillen with a single before Megan Berrelleza slid into home off a misplayed pickle play. Suddenly the Knights were within three with no outs.
Padilla hit another batter to load the bases once again, but her defense came through and helped saved a potential disaster.
In the second game, Shadow Hills’ Caitlyn Whiteside took the mound again and pitched a second complete game, and to start, she gave the Blackhawks some trouble, allowing just two baserunners the first three innings, as her team gave her a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the second from Berrelleza.
After tying the game in the fourth, Grutz brought Yasmin Nix into the game after she didn’t see the field or the batter’s box the first game-and-a-half. With just one swing, Nix sent a line drive soaring over the left-center fence for a solo homer, and that seemed to boost her teammates’ spirits from their lackluster start.
Mariah Estrada closed things out from the mound for La Quinta, pitching the full second game, giving up just five hits while striking out three batters.
Grutz was happy to see her players get pumped for a non-conference valley rival, but she said she needs to see the same type of energy if the Blackhawks want to turn things around this season.
“You’ve got to be motivated to win every game, and they need to have the same kind of focus, fire and motivation no matter who we play.”