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SOFTBALL: Tribe remains undefeated in league, come back against Hawks

The Tulare Union Tribe continue their undefeated streak with a 4-2 victory over rival Mission Oak Hawks

TULARE – Tulare Union senior Megan Melson scored the game winning run against the Mission Oak Hawks.

The Tulare Western Tribe continued their winning streak with a 4-2 win over the second place Mission Oak Hawks on Friday, May 5. The Hawks scored first, promising a potential defeat of their undefeated rivals, but the Tribe were undeterred, taking advantage of a defensive lull on the Hawks’ part in the fourth inning to score three runs.

“Our defense came through today and they saved us,” Tulare Union head coach Carl Bivens said. “They saved us a lot of runs and a lot of hits.”

A base hit from sophomore Bellajah Nunley sent two runners home to tie the game. Then senior Megan Melson scored the game winner off of a base hit by Jessica Rivera. In their previous meeting, they beat the Hawks 1-0, so the Tribe had prepared for a tough defense. All it took was one inning to break through and the Tribe had another win in the bag.

For the rest of the game, both teams were tight on defense and neither offense scored a single run in the final three innings. The Tribe dove for balls in the outfield and communicated effortlessly to make plays. The Hawks were strong and efficient. After the Tribe scored their final run in the fifth inning, Mission Oak pitcher Grace Chojnacki struck out the two of Tulare Union’s top three batters. She’s been a foundational player for the Hawks this season. But all it took was one lull for a loss.

“We’ve had a pretty successful season,” Mission Oak head coach Ilissa Facchini said. “It’s different for us to be coming back from behind. We don’t come back from a lot. We score pretty early. I’m really happy with their fight  and just not giving up, keeping the pressure on a good team.”

Not only are the Tribe and the Hawks the top two teams in the West Yosemite League, they’re cross town rivals. All the girls have played softball together for years. After losing to the Tribe in such a close game earlier in the season, the Hawks had something to prove at home.

“We had a lot on the line,” Bivens said. “A cross-town rival makes a big difference. It’s really hard. We beat them once, 1-0, with one hit. And I knew they were going to come out wanting to redeem that.”

While Facchini attributed the third inning to a lull, Bivens said it was just the Tribe relaxing and settling into the game. After running through the batting order once, the Tribe were back at the top when the fourth inning came around. That’s usually when pitchers get tired, and the batters had watched Chojnacki for three innings.

While Tulare Union has secured their spot in the WYL, the Hawks will have to beat their next two opponents to stay in second. They face Dinuba first on May 8. Dinuba is in third place in the WYL and could knock the Hawks out of the second spot if they defeat them. After Dinuba, the Hawks face Hanford, the only team besides the Tribe that has beaten them before.

For the Tribe, they still have two games as well and are hoping to win to get a high seed in the playoffs. They also face Dinuba next, on May 10, then the Tulare Western Mustangs on May 12.

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