Trailblazers blaze victory trail in home tournament

Golden West’s Kirsten Williams catches a fly ball against Lemoore.(Kason Clark)

Golden West softball handles business with a 10-6 win over Lemoore; the Trailblazers finish 4-0 in the Golden West Tournament

VISALIA – As the host of the Golden West Tournament this past Monday and Tuesday, Golden West softball looked to defend its home turf. The Trail Blazers started the tournament strong with wins over Atascadero and Mt. Whitney on Monday. And they kept on rolling against Lemoore this past Tuesday.

The Trailblazers started March 26 with an 8-1 win over Lemoore to improve to 3-0 in the tournament. With that record, the Trailblazers advanced to the tournament’s championship game where they defeated Lemoore, 10-6, later that day. While he was happy to finish first in the tournament, Golden West head coach Eli Carter was happier that his team got more reps to improve.

“Every game, we’re just trying to get better for the playoffs,” Carter said. “Our offense has been on fire so now we’re trying to get our defense in tune. Our pitching is there and our catching is there so we’re just trying to get everything all synced up and firing on all cylinders, and I think we’re going to be scary when we do.”

The Trailblazers are already off to a hot start this season with a 12-3 record. They have been playing especially well as of late with seven straight wins. As they have rolled through the competition, Golden West junior Khianna Hardwick believes the Trailblazers just have good chemistry.

“We’re always communicating,” Hardwick said. “We never let our mistakes affect us too much and we always have each other’s backs.”

In their first game against Lemoore, the Trailblazers caught fire early. In the top of the first inning, a passed ball allowed a pair of Golden West runners to score to take the lead. The Tigers responded with a score in the second inning, but the Trailblazers stayed hot.

In the third, Karly Aguilar recorded an RBI infield single to extend the lead to 3-1. Later in the fifth, the Traiblazers opened the floodgates. With two runners on, Tristan Perez cleared the bases with a single. A fielder’s choice by Lemoore then allowed another runner to score to make it a 6-1 game.

Golden West’s Khianna Hardwick runs the bases against Lemoore. (Kason Clark)

Kirsten Williams kept it rolling for Golden West with an RBI single to center field. Later in the seventh inning, a Lemoore error allowed another runner to score to push the lead out to 8-1. Starting pitcher Hardwick then closed out the game as she finished the contest with only one run allowed.

“For me, it’s just focusing on my release point,” Hardwick said about her pitching performance. “I’m taking deep breaths before I go into pitch and I just know that my defense always has my back.”

The Trailblazers stay scorching hot in the championship game against Lemoore later on Tuesday. The Tigers did throw the first punch as they scored in the top of the first. But Golden West responded in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from Aguilar.

In the second inning, the Trailblazers took the lead. With the bases loaded, Aniyah Venegas was hit with a pitch to drive in a run. Back-to-back singles from Alondra Magallanes and Hardwick then drove in another pair of runs for Golden West. A fielder’s choice then allowed another runner to score to stretch the lead to 5-1.

“It’s all about the energy that we created and feeding off of each other,” Aguilar said about Golden West’s strong day at the plate. “Once we get going, it’s really contagious.”

Later in the fifth, RBI singles from Hayden Oliveira and Magallanes pushed the lead out to 9-2. Hardwick then knocked in another run with a sacrifice fly to make it a 10-2 advantage. The Tigers tried to keep pace with a pair of two-run home runs to cut the deficit to 10-6. But Golden West held on for the win to finish undefeated in their home tournament.

With their season in the East Yosemite League coming up, the Trailblazers are playing some great softball. But Carter is more concerned with preparing his team for the upcoming postseason, where he believes the Trailblazers can go on a run.

“We want to do well in league but we want to win that last game of the season. We want to finish our season with a win in the books,” Carter said. “We can’t be happy settling with wins. Our goal is the playoffs because in the last few years, we’ve been knocked out in the first round and you can tell by this team, we don’t want to do that anymore.”

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