Softball turns it around to take series against San José State

San+Diego+State+softball+senior+pitcher+Marissa+Moreno+fires+a+pitch+during+the+Aztecs+14-3+win+over+San+Jos%C3%A9+State+on+April+18%2C+2021+at+the+SDSU+Softball+Stadium.

Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

San Diego State softball senior pitcher Marissa Moreno fires a pitch during the Aztecs’ 14-3 win over San José State on April 18, 2021 at the SDSU Softball Stadium.

by Lily Murillo, Contributor

San Diego State softball faced San José State at SDSU Softball Stadium in a three-game weekend series, including a doubleheader on April 17 and a single afternoon game on April 18.  

The Aztecs (20-12, 5-7 Mountain West Conference, 5 Mountain West Position Standings) confidently ended the series against the SJSU Spartans (5-18, 1-8 MWC, 9 MWPS) winning two out of three games. 

The Aztecs began the series with a rocky start losing the first game but quickly fired back winning the rubber matches, including an 11-run victory in the final game. 

SDSU head coach Kathy Van Wyk said hitting has been inconsistent this season, so she was happy to see the team turn things around at the plate.

“Hitting has been dry, so this win was so encouraging and extremely necessary,” Van Wyk said.

Game 1: SJSU wins by one

SDSU junior pitcher Maggie Balint held the Spartans to only two hits at the start of the battle Saturday afternoon.

The Aztecs’ defense was dominant in keeping the Spartans scoreless. However, the close game quickly changed in dynamics when the fifth inning came around.

With a single up the middle, SJSU sophomore shortstop Jocylyn Vidal advanced to second on the throw allowing pinch-runner sophomore  Jackie Rookaird to bring in the first and only run of the game. 

The Aztecs were able to fire back with a hit from sophomore utility player Nicole Siess in the bottom of the fifth in hopes to tie up the game. Following the much-needed hit, junior utility player Riley Theis was able to hit a ground out to third base, advancing Siess to second base. 

Despite the hopeful comeback, the Spartans’ defense proved too tough to allow any other hits to be made for the remainder of the inning. 

The Aztecs remained scoreless for the last two innings of the game, resulting in a 1-0 loss for the first game against the Spartans. 

Game 2: Aztecs fire back with a one-score win 

After the tough start in the first game against the Spartans, the Aztecs were forced to quickly reset as they headed into the second frame of the doubleheader later that evening. 

SDSU senior pitcher Marissa Moreno threw a four-hit shutout in the second game against SJSU, allowing just four hits and one walk in the doubleheader. 

Although Moreno was throwing a great game, the Aztec defense was challenged in the top of the fifth inning when Spartans sophomore shortstop Jessica Giacoma cracked a hard hit to centerfield allowing her to advance to first base. 

Following this hit, sophomore infield utility Jillian Fiegeroa hit a single to the pitcher, leaving the Spartans with first and second base filled and the Aztecs on their toes. 

With a sacrifice bunt from the next Spartan, freshman catcher Ellison Hazlet, the Aztecs were in a jam. 

Moreno, however, came back firing by forcing senior outfielder Rayohna Sagapolu to ground out to SDSU freshman third baseman Jaweliana Perez. Moreno continued the momentum by striking out the next batter. 

The defense was on fire and it was the fire needed to continue in the team’s final two at-bats of the game.

Van Wyk expressed that following the opening game loss, batting was crucial in this second game against the Spartans. 

“Hitting is hot and cold, but good at-bats is what sets the team up for success,” Van Wyk said.

With Moreno holding the final six Spartan batters, this gave SDSU a final shot to put runs on the board. 

Still scoreless at the bottom of the seventh, junior catcher Danielle Romanello powered through in her final at-bat for the Aztecs. Romanello hit a walk-off RBI in the seventh inning, putting San Diego State in the lead with a 1-0 win against the Spartans. 

Ending the day with a split doubleheader the Aztecs immediately began to focus on the final game against the Spartans to close out the two-day weekend series. 

Game 3: Aztecs dominant in just five innings

After just one night of recovering from the tiresome day, the team had a chance to reflect on the positives and negatives that occurred within the first two games. 

Despite the tough back and forth battle faced with the Spartans, it was a new day for the Aztecs.

SDSU immediately kicked off the game with nine hits, nine runs in the first inning, leaving zero Aztecs on base. 

The momentum did not stop, resulting in a 14-3 five-inning victory against SJSU. 

Singles to lead off the game came from senior shortstop Shelby Thompson and senior outfielder Jenna Holcomb. The seniors additionally used smart base running to get into scoring position with stolen bases. 

Junior infielder Jillian Celis followed the dynamic senior switch a hit to left field, allowing Thompson to score. Following Celis’ success, junior outfielder Alexa Schultz smacked the first pitch she was given deep into center field for a two-run double. 

SJSU was able to hold the Aztecs for a moment getting one batter out until freshman infielder Jewliana Perez got the Aztecs back on track with a walk. 

Freshman catcher Sadie Langlet got to work in the batter’s box, hitting a single up the middle to allow Schultz to score the fourth run of the game.

The bats did not stop when freshman utility player Makena Brocki was next in the lineup. Brocki got a hit to left center getting her a double, Langlet to third and Perez home for the fifth run of the first inning. 

Sophomore utility player Nicole Siess displayed bunting skills, allowing her to earn a single and load the bases just in time for Thompson who was next up to bat. 

Thomson wasted no time in swinging a double past the Spartan left fielder’s glove. 

Thomson was able to score the final run of the inning with help from Celis’ sacrifice fly. 

With the powerful start to in the first inning, the Spartans were cold with their bats and remained scoreless. 

The Aztecs, still fired up from the opening inning, were still putting in work with the bats allowing Thompson to score another run in the third.  

SJSU responded to the Aztecs’ success with RBI groundouts allowing the Spartans to score twice in the fourth. 

This was a quick wakeup call for the Aztecs, who fought back in the bottom of the fourth with four additional runs. The Aztecs’ finished fourth with a score of 14-3. 

Balint came into the retiring previous pitcher Moreno. Focus was crucial for Balint to shut down the Spartans and secure the win. 

Balint came through for the Aztecs holding the Spartans scoreless in the fifth. Balint ended the game with a powerful strikeout looking to sophomore infielder Jillian Figeroa, securing the Aztec’s win. 

With the added pressure of closing such a show-stopping game, Balint said her job was to concentrate and put less stress on her teammates.  

“Being up so much in runs, we all tend to get relaxed but closing out the game I feel a sense of pressure and urgency. I just needed to throw strikes, three up three down,” Balint said. 

Up next…

SDSU will travel to Utah State for another three-game weekend series beginning on April 24.

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