Home run and fifth-inning surge carry Lady Sundevils in game 1, Pojoaque answers in game 2
When you hear the song 'Got Your Six' by Five Finger Death Punch playing at the Española Valley High School softball field, you know Haley Ortega is getting ready to swing for the fences.
Mixed between the lineup of mostly hip-hop based walk-up songs on the Española softball team is Ortega’s heavy metal jam.
While she also sports the No. 6 on her uniform and said she mostly chose the song because of that connection, Ortega also mentioned the song’s lyrics “won’t go down, never gonna quit,” as another reason.
It’s not just different than most players’ songs, but it also may play an intimidation factor.
“It does probably sound a bit intimidating,” Ortega said with a laugh. “It really explains me and 'Got Your Six' means, ‘I got your back,’ in military, so it really fits me and it gets me pumped up.”
The slugger was pumped up and pumped up her whole team when she hit her sixth home run of the season — a towering shot to right field on he first pitch of the at-bat to score herself and Marissa Abeyta — in the bottom of the first inning during the Lady Sundevils’ 13-3 win over Pojoaque Valley High School in the first game of a doubleheader April 20 at Española.
The home run helped change the tide and halt all the momentum built by the Elkettes in the top of the frame after Ayanna Aguirre hit a two-run home run of her own to give Pojoaque a 2-0 lead out the gate.
After the home run and three more innings of play, Española took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning, where they exploded for seven runs and added two more in the sixth to end the game via the 10-run mercy rule.
“I really noticed that we needed an extra push after they scored two,” Ortega said about her home run. “Most of all, I just needed to stay calm and my coach had talked to me before I went out to bat and I just did what I know how to do best.”
In the big fifth-inning separation, the Lady Sundevils totaled eight hits and six RBIs, but non excited the dugout more than junior Jaide Romero’s RBI double that increased the lead to 8-3. She was greeted with hugs and laughter on her way back to the dugout after crossing home plate following Trinity Ortega’s RBI.
“This is actually her first year playing varsity and we’ve been pushing her really hard,” Haley Ortega said. “She’s been doing good and that was one of the farthest hits she’s gotten this season, so we were really proud of her because we have been pushing her in practice.”
Española head coach Robert Garcia said it was a great moment to see because of the consistent work Romero has been putting in to improve.
“Jaide is one of our most improved players,” he said. “When she comes through with a hit — especially a strong hit like that one — it proves the work she’s put in to get to the point where she’s at.”
Pojoaque starter Rebecca Chavez pitched four innings and gave up four of the seven runs in the fifth before being replaced by Michaela Martinez, who was introduced to the mound by Trinity Ortega’s RBI double and two proceeding by Abeyta and Haley Ortega.
With the score 11-3 following the fifth, Española held Pojoaque scoreless in the top of the sixth, then after Romero picked up her second hit — this time to load the bases — Trinity Ortega came through again with a two-run RBI to end the game.
Garcia had pleaded to his team to open the game up prior to the bottom of the fifth, and it just so happened that his girls responded instantly.
“That one inning was all we needed and we got it, finally,” he said. “It should have been earlier, but at least we got it. Earlier in the game I thought it might come down to whoever had the last at-bat of the seventh inning to determine it, but we got our inning and didn’t have to worry about it.”
Aguirre led Pojoaque with three RBIs, Trinity and Haley Ortega had three apiece for Española and Romero had two as part of the team’s 12 total RBIs and 17 hits.
Game 2 had the same storyline, expect in flip-flop fashion, as the Elkettes walked away with a 16-4 win in five innings. If there was any doubt about their ability to shake off the big defeat in game 1, they silenced that possibility quickly by scoring seven runs in the first inning.
Española countered with three in the bottom half, but Pojoaque held them to just one more single run in the third inning while scoring three, five and one run in the third, fourth and fifth.
Jessica Roybal recorded a whopping eight RBIs for Pojoaque on five hits and Martinez stayed steady pitching after a tough start on the mound in the fifth inning of game 1.
With the teams splitting on the day, District 2-4A remains crowded at the top of the standings with a week-and-a-half left in the regular season. As of Monday, Pojoaque and Los Alamos High School are 6-2 and 5-2 in district play, respectfully. Española was one game back in the loss column at 4-3.
The Elkettes and Lady Sundevils both played district games Tuesday, in which the results were not available by press time. Los Alamos is off until Saturday when they travel to Española for a huge doubleheader at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., while Pojoaque next hosts non-district opponent Albuquerque Academy at 4 p.m., Thursday (4/25).