Senior pitcher Joey Vega and freshman catcher Natalya Rodriguez are relatively new teammates, but the Wilson softball battery played last week like they’ve been doing this for years. The duo led the Bruins (9-12, 5-0) to a historic upset at Lakewood on Tuesday, and a dramatic win over Millikan on Thursday to take over first place in the Moore League. Wilson hasn’t won the league title since 2012.
The stars were aligned for Wilson when they ended Lakewood’s 65-game league winning streak with 4-3 victory. The Lancers have won nine of the last 10 league titles.
“We don’t pay attention to that stuff, and we just treated it like any other game,” Vega said.
Vega went the distance while scattering eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts. The four-year varsity starter held the heart of the Lakewood lineup to one hit and two walks.
“She’s a senior, she’s a gamer and she’s been in this situation before,” Wilson coach George Molina said. “She’s earned this. Today was four years coming and finally getting it done.”
Last year in this game, Wilson was tied with Lakewood in the sixth inning before the Lancers ran away with the victory.
“We’ve been really competitive, so I knew we had a really good shot to win this game,” Molina said. “I also knew we had to play a great game because they’re a great team.”
Wilson delivered the opening salvo, and countered every punch from the champions. Senior Katelyn Howard gave her team a lead in the first inning by driving in Michelle Dominguez with a two-out RBI single. The Bruins doubled their lead in the third when Dominguez plated Vega after she singled, stole second and moved to third on a fielder’s choice.
Lakewood cut the lead in half when center fielder Clarissa Salazar scored on an error after one of her three hits at the top of the Lancers lineup, but Wilson padded its advantage in the fifth when Vega and Amanda Castro drew leadoff walks, and scored on singles from Sinclair Lawhorn and Howard to push the lead to 4-1.
Lakewood’s Salazar scored on a passed ball in the fifth, and Kendall Lundberg scored on a sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 4-3 Wilson, but Vega stranded four runners in the final three innings to clinch the upset victory.
“I tried to stay simple,” Vega said. “There was a point when my adrenaline really was getting the best of me, but I calmed myself down, adjusted and refocused.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” Molina said. “Joey pitched great, and (freshman catcher) Natalya Rodriguez did a great job behind the plate calling the pitches. They got a lot of fly balls, and the outfield did great. It was a real team effort.”
“It’s a disappointing day for Lakewood softball,” Lakewood coach Andy Miramontes said. “All good things come to an end, and unfortunately it happened today. (Vega) pitched a gem and really had us off balance.”
Less than 48 hours after completing one of the biggest upsets in Moore League softball history, Vega and Rodriguez led the Bruins to a 5-2 win over Millikan on Thursday at Joe Rodgers Stadium.
“I told the girls there was more to come — that Tuesday’s win wasn’t it,” Molina said. “We needed to be ready because Millikan is always tough, and I’m very proud of my whole team. A lot of girls contributed today.”
Vega pitched her second complete game in three days while scattering eight hits and striking out five. She didn’t issue a walk, and Rodriguez called the whole game like she has all season. The freshman catcher also hit a three-run triple in the fifth inning to give Wilson the lead for good.
“Joey just did not give up,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been calling my own games since I was 10 years old, and the coaches and Joey trust me. I really appreciate her as a team captain and a pitcher.”
Millikan took the lead in the second when Maya De Sota stole home on a poor throw from Rodriguez. The freshman was visibly upset in the dugout, and teammate Rebekah Guzman took her aside for encouragement and reassurance.
“I get in my head a lot,” Rodriguez said. “I’m working on it, and my teammates are helping me. This is such a great team, and they give me confidence.”
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Lawhorn singled to reach base in seven of eight at bat in the two wins. Howard then reached on an error and Sydney Freijanes singled to load the bases before Rodriguez drilled a 1-1 pitch over the head of the left fielder that emptied the bases. Fellow freshman Ava Trachta drove in the fourth run of the inning with her third hit of the day, and Vega stranded two runners in scoring position in the sixth inning to hold on for the win.
“This team really cares about each other,” Vega said. “We pick each other up, and it makes us better.”
The second round of Moore League play gets underway tonight when Lakewood and Millikan face off at 7 p.m. at Lisa Fernandez Field. These two rivals both lost to Wilson last week, and the winner will take a stranglehold on second place. In their first meeting last month, the Lancers took advantage of multiple Millikan miscues in a 3-0 win.