For a moment, there was a golden opportunity to take control of the game, but in the blink of an eye that moment and momentum was lost.
The result was the end of the McCurdy Charter School softball team’s season; as they suffered a 10-9 loss in extra innings at the result of the No. 9 Logan High School Lady Longhorns in an opening play-in game of the 2019 NMAA Softball Championships on May 15 at Cleveland High School.
The No. 8 Lady Bobcats (9-7) went through a wide range of emotions throughout the duration of the game, and none was more drastic than the changing perception they experienced in the extra inning.
McCurdy mustered a bases loaded situation in the top of the frame — Gracie Valencia began the inning on second base, per rule of the international tiebreaker — after a single by Alissa Maestas and a walk for Laila Rodriguez.
That gave way for junior Shantell Chavez to find her pitch and potentially put McCurdy up by multiple runs — all while there were zero outs in the inning — but instead, she hit a pop up that was caught for an easy out. Not the end of the world, but the issue was Rodriguez failed to tag up at first and her hesitation proved deadly, as she was unable to return to the base safely before being forced out.
Suddenly, with two outs, Laura Salas struck out on the next at-bat, giving Logan new life and plenty of reason to feel confident after getting out of a huge jam. The game would end just three at-bats later — on a questionable call at home plate — giving the Lady Longhorns the right to advance to the first round of the championship bracket to play No. 1 Eunice High School later in the afternoon.
On the winning hit, Logan’s Jaylee Judd hit a ground ball that was corralled by pitcher Jeneva Serrano, who with a slight hesitation, threw the ball to first basemen Beatriz Salazar to record the out. The only problem was, Logan’s Kyndall Ragland was at third base, and once she saw the throw go to first, she gave it her best sprint to home, barely making it safely across the plate to beat the tag from catcher Gracie Valencia — at least from the umpire’s perspective.
“There’s another one,” McCurdy head coach Christian Lopez said after the conclusion of the sequence — motioning to the several questionable calls made on the day.
Of the biggest, was a non-out call at first base in the bottom of the fourth inning, which gave way for Logan to score three runs to retake the lead 7-6 and regain back the momentum. They scored all three runs with two outs. As for the final play of the game, Lopez thought of only one word to describe it.
“They beat us on a crap play, so what can you do?” he said. “The plan was to get the throw and get the out at first and make a double play. They did it, but maybe they could have done it a little bit faster. Grace got the ball and was on top of her because the runner held back. The umpire was off and I don’t think he called it from a good perspective. He wasn’t in the right place to make the correct call, but it was his call and he had to make it.”
In no surprise — based off the teams’ eighth and ninth seeds — the game was back-and-forth all morning once the first pitch was thrown at the 8:30 a.m. start time. The teams were tied at two runs apiece after an inning, then McCurdy made the first big move of the game, scoring four runs in the second to gather a 6-2 lead. However, Logan would steady the ship and answer with two runs in the third inning and then the three runs in the fourth after the questionable non-out call at first base.
The Lady Longhorns were able to capitalize on McCurdy’s four errors for the game, predominantly in the outfield.
“When we got that four-run lead, we should have maintained it,” Lopez said. “We got complacent because we were ahead. We thought, ‘OK, we’re ahead and we can move (forward).’ The outfield catches, those are something we practiced for the last two or three days. Our batting killed us too; I don’t know why we were swinging at pitches so high. That pitcher was throwing junk and we were swinging at it. We fell for it, and that was the bottom line.”
After Logan took the 7-6 lead after the fourth, they upped the lead to 8-6 going into the sixth inning, which was one of two times the Lady Bobcats failed to quit and battled back. They scored two runs in the top of the frame to tie the game at eight apiece after Salazar hit a two-run RBI double on an 0-1 count.
They would follow suit in the seventh, because after falling behind 9-8, Heavenly Arellano hit a hard ground ball RBI to score Olivia Cantrell.
“We had some girls who hadn’t hit (a lot) all season, like Heavenly,” Lopez said. “That’s the thing with this team: they never gave up. I hate to say it, but any other time, we might have thought, ‘OK, we lost,’ and they would have been done already. This team just, for whatever reason (just kept playing).”
Serrano led McCurdy with four hits for the game, Salazar added three and three RBIs and Arellano and Maestas had two hits each. Logan just outhit McCurdy 15-14, and was led by the trio of Judd, Ragland and Kesleah Shields, who all had three hits while combining for 9-for-13 at the plate.
In what might be the best positive for McCurdy to take out of the loss is the fact that every player who gained the experience of the state tournament this season will be back next year. Their roster had no seniors this season, four juniors and the ace pitcher Serrano will come back as a junior next year. The top four players (Serrano, Valencia, Maestas and Cantrell) in hits were all sophomores.