Tulare Union seals WYL victory

Tulare Union’s KaiLee Gilbert hits the ball on the road against Mission Oak.(Kason Clark)

Tribe softball beats crosstown rival Mission Oak 7-4 on the road, Tribe remains in first place in the West Yosemite League with a 3-0 record

TULARE – With both teams off to 2-0 starts in league play, Tulare Union and Mission Oak softball looked to take firm control of the top spot in the West Yosemite League when they faced off this past Wednesday night.

After a slow start for both teams, both offenses eventually got going to make it a back-and-forth contest late in the night. But when the final out was recorded, the Tribe emerged victorious with the 7-4 road victory on April 17. With a chance to take control of the WYL, Tulare Union head coach Carl Bivens liked how the Tribe started and finished against the Hawks.

“This game was a big game for us,” Bivens said. “We were both undefeated and crosstown rivals so we came out, we bunted when we needed to bunt, we executed, we hit and run, we got extra bases and we put the pressure on them.”

Along with improving to 3-0 in league play, the Tribe extended their winning streak to four straight and improved their overall record to 13-4-2. With their strong start to the season, Tulare Union sophomore Kayloni Cox believes their tem chemistry and leadership has led them to success.

“Our energy, everybody coming together and hyping each other is definitely behind our strong start,” Cox said. “I’ll give it to our captains Mason Hatton and Bellajah Nunley. They really make sure that we are on it and everything’s good to go.”

The Tribe’s energy came through in the top of the first inning where they took the lead. After KaiLee Gilbert got on base thanks to a walk, she scored on a fielder’s choice to get her team on the board. But over the next few innings, the Tribe struggled to get the bats going.

Tulare Union’s defense maintained the lead as it played well to limit the Mission Oak bats. Through the first three innings of the contest, Tulare Union pitcher Mason Hatton and her defense grounded the Hawks.

“Hatton always brings it. All the time,” Bivens said. “Our defense really supported her and out of the whole game, I think that’s the most important thing. She knows that after today, she can turn around and know the girls have her back and she doesn’t have to carry the weight all by herself.”

Still, the Hawks broke through in the bottom of the fourth. After opening the inning with a double to center field, Taylor Shepherd scored on an error to tie the game. But Tulare Union’s defense rounded back into form and prevented the Hawks from taking the lead.

After their slow start, the Tribe finally got their bats going in the top of the sixth. With a runner on base, Hatton tripled to right to drive in the run to give her team the lead. Cox then singled to center to bring in Hatton and make it a 3-1 lead. After seeing Hatton give the Tribe the lead, Cox wanted to get in on the action.

“It’s contagious,” Cox said. “When one finally stays cool and hits the ball, then it passes onto the other people because they don’t want to get out and they want to hit the ball too.”

The Hawks tried to keep pace in the bottom of sixth as Eryn Quinonez hit an RBI double to make it a 3-2 game. But the Tribe’s bats stayed hot to take control of the game in the top of the seventh. Destanee Early added onto the lead when she scored on a Mission Oak error. Gilbert then hit a two-run inside-the-park home run to push the lead to 6-2.

Jawzalyn Salazar scored on another Mission Oak error to make it a 7-2 lead for the Tribe. Still, the Hawks had their chances in the bottom of the seventh. Shepherd drove in a run with a single to center to cut the deficit to 7-3. Braelyn Serpa then made it a 7-4 game when she scored on a fielder’s choice. But the Tribe closed it out to remain undefeated in league play.

Despite their loss, the Hawks are in good position with a 2-1 league record and a 13-6 overall record. After committing several defensive errors against the Tribe, Mission Oak head coach Ilissa Facchini believes the Hawks can get back on track if they fix those mistakes.

“We have to just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Facchini said. “We have to just keep the momentum that we’ve had and don’t let this one loss get to us because we’re better than we played today.”

As the Tribe look to remain atop the WYL this spring, Cox believes they just have to come out excited each and every game for the rest of the season. 

“We have to keep our energy up 100%,” Cox said. “We just have to keep hyping each other, back each other up and keep our bats going.”

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