PALMDALE — The Highland softball team found itself trailing midway through its Golden League game at Knight High on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs made adjustments at the plate and capitalized on defensive errors to rally for a 12-7 victory to stay in a tie for first place.
Highland (12-4, 10-1) is tied for first with Quartz Hill, while Knight (14-8, 7-3) entered the game in second place, just ahead of Lancaster and Palmdale.
“We were a little too anxious in the beginning and then we got down and we kind of got down on ourselves a little bit,” Highland coach Doug Harmon said. “In the early innings we can recover from that. We found out that in the later innings, like against Quartz Hill, it’s really tough to come back. If we just keep chipping away, chipping away, and keep the energy level up, once they realize it’s early, we can still take care of business. Then they just settled down and their bats came alive. If you hit the ball hard, good things will happen. It caused a couple of errors on their side. We were able to score some runs on it.”
Highland scored three runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 5-4 lead on a two-run single by senior Kayla Sandoval with two outs and the bases loaded.
“We made our adjustments and we were seeing her pitches and we took it today,” said Sandoval, who finished with three hits. “We were seeing exactly what she was pitching. She was throwing her pitches outside and we just realized those outside pitches were going to work for us.
“Patience is definitely key. We had to wait on her pitches and once we saw our pitch, we just had to make that one pitch ours. My at-bats were definitely patience. Being in my head and waiting for that.”
The Bulldogs capitalized on two errors in the fifth and senior Alexa Alvarrez hit an RBI single.
Highland extended its lead with five runs in the sixth, all with two outs and on four errors.
Senior Jocelyn Carrillo hit an RBI triple and Sandoval hit a two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs.
“I think we struggled in the beginning and we weren’t as energetic as we should have been,” Highland senior Ashley Bramer said. “We weren’t as hyped as we should have been. But something switched in us and we came out and our energy got high. We started playing for each other and playing as a family and we dominated.”
Bramer singled and scored on an error in the fourth inning, cutting the Hawks’ lead to 4-2. She also scored in the fifth and sixth innings.
“We kind of realized we have to play for each other,” Bramer said. “We can’t go up there and swing for the fences. We can’t go up there and swing for ourselves. We have to hit for each other and hit as a family and just play Bulldog softball.
“One hit can’t win the game for us. One hit can’t lose the game for us. It’s about every individual person’s hit that is going to win the game.”
Knight scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth, to cut Highland’s lead to 10-7.
Layla Cortez led off with an infield single off Highland pitcher Annika Gugler’s leg and Abby Curtis and Sammie Ojeda followed with back-to-back walks to load the bases.
Knight’s Trinity Largy hit an RBI infield single and Amaya Colson and Denise Carrillo hit back-to-back RBI ground balls.
Highland answered with two runs in the top of the seventh inning, as junior Rozelyn Carrillo reached on an error and scored on a different error and junior Mariah Jamison hit an RBI single.
“Great base running by Roz,” Harmon said. “Two times she had nice slides at the plate. They’re just really smart on the base paths. It definitely helps.
“We just have to keep the energy up, keep swinging the bats and try to eliminate the errors. We’ll work on that stuff tomorrow in practice. I think it’s more a mindset than a physical thing, because these kids can field balls.”
Rozelyn Carrillo scored in the first inning, reaching on an error and just beating a tag at home plate when Jocelyn Carrillo got in a rundown between first and second.
Jocelyn Carrillo, Alexa Alvarez and Bramer all finished with two hits apiece for Highland.
Knight took the lead with three runs in the second inning, starting with a one-out, solo home run by Denise Carrillo.
Amy Manzo reached on an error with two outs, Sarah Mendez hit an RBI double and Layla Cortez followed with a one-run single.
Largy gave the Hawks a 4-1 lead in the third, hitting a leadoff single and scoring on an error.
Largy had two hits for the Knights, as did Cortez and Curtis.
“I think the difference in the game is we had 10 errors,” Knight coach Tammy Zimmardi said. “We can’t have 10 errors and expect to come out on top. I think they had like two earned runs.
“We hit the ball really well. We played as a team. We never gave up. We just got to make the plays behind our pitcher. Yuli (Pena) pitched a great game. We just got to make sure we’re making those plays behind her. If we do that, we’ll be OK. When we do that, we’ll be OK.”
Pena struck out five batters in seven innings, giving up nine hits and three walks. Gugler struck out three batters and gave up nine hits and four walks in seven innings.
The two teams play again on Thursday, at Highland High.
“We need to keep our energy up,” said Sandoval, a third-year varsity player. “We need to keep our hitting where it’s been lately. We need to bring down our errors. That’s definitely going to help us on Thursday.”