The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
Staying aggressive has been paramount for Long Beach Poly softball’s resurgence. Once again, the Jackrabbits pushed the envelope to beat Wilson 3-1 on Thursday afternoon at Joe Rodgers Stadium.
This game marked the unofficial end to the first round of Moore League play, and the victory keeps Poly tied atop the league standings with Millikan and Lakewood.
“We have to be competitive and not let up,” Poly pitcher Bella Alonso said. “We have that recognition now so we have to pump up the stakes and live up to it. We have to stay aggressive and capitalize on mistakes.”
Poly took a 2-1 lead in the third inning by sending a runner home from second base on a throwing error, and then added an unearned insurance run in the fifth.
“We’re happy but we still have more work to do,” Poly coach Elizabeth Sanches said. “We didn’t make the adjustments we needed to make. Against a team like Wilson that hits as well as it does, a two run lead isn’t enough.”
It ended up being plenty with Alonso in the circle. She went the distance while striking out eight batters and stranding six runners. Alonso made a great snag on a liner back up the middle to end the sixth inning, and then proceeded to strike out the side in the seventh.
“She thrives off of chaos,” Sanches said. “We’re glad she has that mental approach to the game. We want her to stay intense. That line drive shot right back to her and pumped her up too.”
“I’m not going to lie, it really scared me,” Alonso said. “I jumped a little bit. It definitely gave me that adrenaline to do anything to help the team. I screamed a little. But I got it done.”
Wilson was led by third baseman Leah Pettway's three hits and RBI. The Bruins finished with five hits.
“It’s tough because we made just a couple mistakes and you can’t do that with a pitcher like Bella,” Wilson coach George Molina said. “We had some opportunities, we just needed to find a way to get some more runs.”
Poly shortstop Vanessa Correa and the Jackrabbits defense played error free softball behind Alonso. Correa drove in the first Poly run in the third with a double, and scored twice.
“We know the pressure is there but I don’t think we necessarily put that pressure on ourselves,” Correa said. “We know we’re confident that as long as we put in the work we can do this… We’re all willing to sacrifice for each other and do what we need to do.”
Wilson took the 1-0 lead in the first inning when Pettway drove in Kaden Marsee, but Poly took the lead for good in the third when Brianna Bailey and Sakarah Buckner led off with consecutive bunt singles. Correa plated Bailey with her looping double down the right field line.
With two runners in scoring position, it looked like a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jandell Moe had plated Buckner before Correa came in to score on a throwing error. However, the Bruins checked at third and Buckner was ruled out for leaving too early. Correa’s aggressive base running was rewarded though and her run counted for the 2-1 lead. She reached on an error and scored on an error in the fifth.
Alonso used two straight strikeouts in the first and second innings to strand runners on base. She only gave up two hits in the final four innings she pitched with the lead.
“I saw that every batter was ready to hit a home run so I knew I had to be ten times more aggressive,” Alonso said. “I knew I had to change my approach here and there because I could punch in, see their weakness and attack that.”
Wilson pitcher Emily Castano gave up five hits and struck out three while only giving up one earned run.
The Bruins are now in fourth place behind Poly, Millikan and Lakewood in the standings. The second round of league play starts March 31.