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SOFTBALL: Hawks hustle to score 11 against Mustangs

Taylor Shepard leads Hawks’ offense with three hits in four at bats and three runs in an 11-2 win

TULARE – As the offense racked up run after run, Mission Oak pitcher Grace Chojnacki held the Mustangs to only two runs to win 11-2.

The Mission Oak Hawks defeated the Tulare Western Mustangs 11-2 in their matchup on Friday, April 28. The Hawks scored early and the Mustangs had little chance of coming back. With an airtight defense behind her, Hawks’ pitcher Grace Chojnacki stayed on the mound the entire game and shut down the Mustangs at bat. Taylor Shepard led the Hawks on offense, scoring three of the 11 runs.

“We’ve been kind of struggling at the plate,” Mission Oak head coach Ilissa Facchini said. “It’s good to score some runs and put the bat on the ball a little bit more than we have been.”

Shepard took the fourth spot in the lineup and scored the opening run for the Hawks. With the bases loaded, Shepard on third, a wild pitch gave Shepard an opportunity to score. With a dive towards home plate, she scored the first run for the Hawks. Shepard went on to score two more runs. She was three for four at bat, with the most hits on the team.

On the mound, Chojnacki kept the Mustangs’ offense in check. She struck out ten batters over seven innings and allowed only two hits. The senior has been a key pitcher for the Hawks all season and pitched two games this week. As the weather begins to warm up, it’s a testament to her stamina that she pitched the entire game.

“She always comes back stronger,” Facchini said. “I feel like we had a little lull there but she came back stronger later in the game.”

Despite the score, the Mustangs put a lot of heart into the game. The starting pitcher had to be pulled from the game unexpectedly after two innings and junior Emily Briseno stepped up to the task. As a first year varsity player, she’s made strides in both her skill on the field and her strength mentally. Even though the Hawks scored four runs in her first inning, she stayed positive and kept going.

“It’s not an easy position to come into a game unexpectedly like that,” Tulare Western head coach Stevie Bray said. “But she came in and she did what she needed to do.”

Offensively, Briseno had a huge play in the sixth inning to score the Mustangs’ second run. She came up to bat and bunted to get on base. Chojnacki picked up the ball and made an error, overthrowing it past the first baseman. Briseno took off and made her way around the bases. With Bray waving her in from third, she made it all the way around and beat the ball back to home plate, opting to leap over the catcher’s glove rather than sliding to avoid the tag.

“She’s one of the fastest girls on our team,” Bray said of the choice to wave her home instead of stopping at third.

Even though they lost by nine runs, the Mustangs didn’t lose their spirit. Though they’re currently last in the West Yosemite League, they’ve seen a lot of growth as a team this year. They won’t make the playoffs, but they have young players that made a lot of strides over the season. Their next opponent will be Dinuba at home on May 3.

The Hawks are third in the WYL, with a 3-2 league record. In second, Dinuba has a 3-1 record. The Hawks stand a good chance of moving into second place if they can win their next game against Dinuba. But first they’ll have to face Lemoore on May 3 and then the Tulare Union Tribe, who are currently undefeated in league play.

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