Long Beach Poly Softball Wilson

Softball: Long Beach Poly Comes Back To Beat Wilson

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The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial

The phrase “feel hard done-by” is commonly used for European soccer teams who have a string of calls go against them and then they respond with dissent.

Long Beach Poly softball felt hard done-by on Tuesday at Joe Rodgers Stadium where the Jackrabbits were on the wrong end of a few close calls while facing Wilson in Moore League action.

The umpires also asked to speak with a Poly administrator after continued vocal criticism from Jackrabbits fans and second baseman Tiare Ho-Ching was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct warning after voicing displeasure to her sister and shortstop Ki’ele Ho-Ching.

“I guess a lot of people would get discouraged by bad umpires, but it kind of fueled us and made us even more passionate about getting the win,” Tiare said of the calls. “It’s all passion. Poly is really passionate and we want to win, and in my opinion, we want it more than anyone in league.”

The Jackrabbits responded with a five-run sixth inning as part of a 9-5 comeback victory. Tiare Ho-Ching finished with two singles, a triple and three runs scored at the top of the Poly lineup. The senior also led her team by keeping her cool after the unsportsmanlike call. Ho-Ching even got the umpire to smile and laugh as play resumed.

“The way I was raised is to respect my elders,” she said. “Even if I was mad, I just wanted to make a joke out of it, and I didn’t want him to take it out on the rest of the team. So I told him that I’d keep my thoughts to myself.”

Poly trailed 5-3 when that happened, and then proceeded to score six runs in the final two innings. Jackrabbits pitcher Lana Chao went the distance and kept the Bruins off the scoreboard for the final three innings to close a game that had a combined 24 hits.

Coach Liz Sanches-Martin brought her team together after the controversial calls and reminded them to keep their composure because she was feeling the same way.

“I told the girls that it was happening to me for a little bit, I was getting upset,” Sanches-Martin said. “I had to check myself and remind myself that I can’t ask my girls to do something that I’m not capable of doing myself. So we regrouped, talked about it and said, ‘The best thing we can do is walk out of here with a win.’”

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Tiare Ho-Ching started the bottom of the fifth inning with a triple off Wilson starter Emily Castano before Emoni Lam Sam plated her with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-4.

Poly’s Arianna Molina and Sunnie Vaafuti led off the bottom of the sixth with a single and double, respectively, to put a pair in scoring position for center fielder Brianna Bailey.

“Coming to the plate I was thinking about my past at bats and that failure, knowing that I needed to make a change and adjust to (Castano),” Bailey said. “Like our last game against Wilson there were a lot of pop ups, so I was so determined to get my hands on top of the ball and do something different.”

Bailey put her plan into action and drove a triple into the gap for what would end up being the game-winning RBI hit. The Jackrabbits dugout erupted in celebration for the lead and their teammate.

“She’s quiet, humble and everyone was so excited for her because she’s just one of those team players who everyone wants to do well,” Sanches-Martin said. “She’s the fastest girl in the program so we’ve tried to utilize small ball with her for the last three years. But with fast hands and great wrist snap she really knows how to power through the ball… In that moment we needed a ball out of the infield to score multiple runs and so we gave her the green light. And she ripped it.”

“It felt amazing, it’s so exciting to run around the bases, it was a lot of fun,” said Bailey, who is headed to Dartmouth next year.

Wilson took its first lead of the game in the top of the first inning on a perfectly executed double steal by Sacha Zalamea and Tallulah Watts.

The Ho-Ching sisters led off the bottom of the first with a pair of singles before Lam Sam scored them with a triple. She tried to round the bases for the inside the park home run, but an impressive Bruins relay home allowed the catcher Watts to make a great tag at the plate.

Wilson retook the lead in the second with a 2-out rally that Ashley Kinsley sparked with a single to turn the lineup over. Charlotte White then singled, and Zalamea drew a walk to load the bases. Watts also drew a walk to score a run, and then Kaijah Alexander drove in two more with a single to make it 4-2.

Ki’ele Ho-Ching tripled in the third inning and scored on Lam Sam’s ground out to cut the lead to 4-3, but Wilson scored again in the top of the fourth inning when Zalamea smacked an inside the park home run. It was the call at the plate on a close tag that infuriated Poly and its fans the most.

Ho-Ching then led by example, and at the plate, down the stretch. Her performance is even more impressive considering she’s only played a handful of games this season after sitting out most of the year with an arm injury. The Jackrabbits didn’t think they’d get her back before the senior takes her talents to Arizona State University.

“We’re very grateful (for her return) but her safety is still the most important thing, and that’s why she’s playing second base (instead of shortstop),” Sanches-Martin said.

“I’ve been itching to come back,” Tiare Ho-Ching said. “(After recent losses) I had a talk with the girls about in past years we haven’t had the talent that other teams have had in league, but we have the heart more than anyone else. I wasn’t seeing that while watching. I talked to them about bringing that back if we want to win. And we showed that today.”

Poly, Wilson and Lakewood are all in a heated race for second place in league behind undefeated first-place Millikan. The next big games are on Tues. April 16 when Millikan visits Poly and Lakewood hosts Wilson.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs. Wilson, Softball
PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs. Wilson, Softball
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.