By Andrew Luberda
Trying to avenge a 15 – 7 loss earlier in the season, the Panthers traveled to Coolidge to battle the Lady Bears on Apr. 2. The Panthers trailed early in the game but made a valiant comeback before eventually falling, 13 – 12.
Head Coach Cheryl Lopez said it was a heartbreaking loss for her team. She was proud of their resilience and said they represented themselves better in this game. “They didn’t give up,” she said. “The first time we played them we didn’t play very well.”
The Panthers scored first as Hunter Flanagan singled to start to the game. Gabby Salcido later walked, putting runners on first and second for freshman Pinky Thomas. Thomas hit a 2-RBI triple to put her team in front, 2 – 0. Thomas scored on a successful safety squeeze bunt by Ariel Alonzo.
Flanagan, a sophomore, was the starting pitcher for the Panthers. The combination of a good-hitting Lady Bears team and some poor defense by the Panthers led to a 7-run first inning for Coolidge.
The Panthers scored one run in each of the next three innings. In the second, Flanagan had an RBI single which scored Torres. Mariza Padilla walked in third and later scored on an error by Coolidge. In the fourth, senior Christine Grap walked and came around to score on a single by Pinky Thomas.
Keana Torres came on in relief of Flanagan and successfully contained the Lady Bears’ offense. Torres, a freshman, allowed only one run over the last three innings. Her pitching gave the Panthers an opportunity to get back in the game. They did as they scored three runs in both the sixth and seventh innings.
Gabby Salcido, a freshman, doubled in the sixth and scored on single by Ariel Alonzo. Alonzo and Padilla also scored in the inning. In the seventh Grap doubled and scored on single by Pinky Thomas. Thomas later scored on a dropped third strike. Hunter Flanagan also scored in the inning.
After the game Coach Lopez said the Panthers had opportunities to win the game but they left the bases loaded twice. “If our hitting (was clutch), we could’ve (won the game).”
The Panthers had five freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup versus a ranked Coolidge team. The talented underclassmen provide reason for optimism as the season progresses.
“My team is getting better and better each game,” Gabby Salcido said. “(We need to) keep doing what we’re doing.”
“I think we can continue practicing and getting better at everything we do,” Hunter Flanagan said.
Keana Torres credited the coaching and acknowledged the future is bright with a team full of young talent. “Our coach has helped us a lot with our batting – we’ve been doing a lot of drills – and we have a couple good players coming up.”