Tuesday’s rubber match between El Camino Division rivals Santa Clara Bruins and Fremont Firebirds was a microcosm of both their seasons. Fremont’s softball team would earn its 10th straight victory in league, finding yet another way to win despite not firing on all cylinders.
Santa Clara, meanwhile, showed great progress when compared to its previous loss a week ago against Fremont. On May 3, the Firebirds blew out the Bruins 20-4. This time around the Bruins were in the game start to finish, falling by a score of just 4-1.
Unlike that previous matchup, the Bruins were in this game until the end. In that first loss, the Firebirds scored five runs in the first inning. This time around, the Bruins trailed just 1-0 going into the bottom of the fifth.
Unfortunately for the Santa Clara fans in attendance, that’s when Fremont found some breathing room on the scoreboard. Firebirds starting pitcher Jiyah Caban helped herself with a three-run homer to straight away center field.
A four-run cushion was plenty for Caban on the mound. Santa Clara would get on the board the following half inning. In the top of the sixth, three hitter Jazzy Ramirez hit a triple. The speedy center fielder came home to score on an RBI grounder to third by Jordyn Guzman, but that would be the only run the Bruins managed to muster against Caban.
“She’s got five pitches, but the changeup is what makes the fastball look faster,” noted Firebirds Skipper Hector Zuno. “Jiyah and Alexia [Sanchez] have great chemistry. Jiyah trusts Alexia’s pitch calling and they worked great together today.”
“I felt pretty good all day today,” chimed Caban on how she felt in the pitcher’s circle. “Alexia called a great game.”
The defense behind Caban also worked great for the Firebirds in this one. Center fielder Linda Zuno robbed Bruins’ catcher Evonne Bergman of a single in shallow center with a sliding catch. Meanwhile, third baseman Katie Grant snared all three outs off the bat of Santa Clara leadoff hitter Vanessa Calvillo.
Calvillo also made multiple nice plays for the Bruins defensively to help keep Santa Clara within striking distance. She started one of the more unorthodox double plays you’ll see when she fielded a grounder and got the lead runner forced out at third. Guzman then fired to second to get the force out at second base, for the rare 6-5-4 double play.
“They came through and played well today,” praised Bruins Manager Julie Kawamoto on her squad’s improved performance. “Still a few hiccups, but other than that, we played well. We have eleven players coming back next year too so we are looking forward to next year.”
One of those returners will be pitcher Pricilla Medina, whose control of the strike zone was markedly improved over her previous start against Fremont.
Furthermore, freshman Chloe Boyes smoked the ball in all three of her at bats on Tuesday. Boyes began the season at the bottom of the lineup but had worked her way up to the two hole by season’s end.
While the Bruins finished out the team’s league schedule, Fremont has two more games left to potentially finish with an undefeated mark in league. The Firebirds host Monta Vista on May 10 and play second-place Gunn on May 12.