It’s been a packed few weeks for the No. 22 49ers softball, and after a well-deserved two-day break, the team returned ready to face off against Texas Tech (16-9) Wednesday, defeating the Red Raiders 4-2 after a close defensive battle.
Head coach Kim Sowder believes that though her team just came back from a break, Long Beach played just as well as if there was no time off.
“I definitely think any days off right now are good for our team to get a break,” Sowder said. “I was happy with their energy and they didn’t play tired today, and after a couple of games this week, the games will be spread out and they’ll get some more time to practice and rest.”
Sophomore pitcher Cielo Meza returned to the pitcher’s circle following Sunday’s narrow defeat against UCLA (24-0) and pitched a strong five innings, only allowing one hit, two walks and one run.
Meza, who would record nine strikeouts on the day, kept the game at a standstill between the two teams as a pitching battle engaged, neither team earning a hit until the third inning, when senior first baseman Julia Lombardi earned the first single of the game.
Lombardi’s hit would begin the momentum for her team, as Long Beach would earn the first run of the game after two walks and a successful bunt by senior right fielder Rachel Loera to take an early 1-0 lead.
Senior third baseman LT Torres, who made an impressive sliding play to prevent an infield base hit, cites the third inning as a pick-me-up for her team.
“[The game] was kind of a slow start, energy was kind of down,” Torres said. “We kept finding ways to move [Lombardi] over and finally found a way to score…I think the little things are super important and will pump up our dugout no matter what.”
Texas Tech would not sit back for long as freshman center fielder Michaela Cochran would earn the lone hit of the day in the top of the fourth inning against Meza and help load the bases, with one run coming in on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at one.
Following a quiet bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth, Long Beach would find its rhythm as it earned four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take a late 4-1 lead over Texas Tech.
After putting two runners on base through a double and a single, Long Beach earned its first run when junior shortstop Nichole Fry singled to right field to bring in Lombardi for the RBI. It would take its commanding lead, however, when senior catcher Lauren MacLeod tripled down the right field line to bring in Fry and Loera for two RBIs and the 4-1 lead.
Meza would have the day end in the sixth inning after allowing one walk and hitting one batter, being replaced by sophomore Devyn Magnett, who allowed two hits, one run and recorded one strikeout for the day.
One of the major plays made by Long Beach was a diving catch by Naomi Hernandez in the top of the sixth inning to help shut down Texas Tech’s offensive chances at coming near the lead.
“It was definitely a good feeling [making that catch],” Hernandez said. “Especially when I came in and Devyn gave me props, it was good knowing I was there for her.”
Torres cited the pitchers of the game, namely Magnett’s closing, as a key part of Long Beach’s victory for the day.
“I think Devyn coming in, believing in herself and knowing that she could trust us is huge,” Torres said. “Us just having her back, and letting her know we have her back, was a big change right there.”
Though Magnett gave up one run in the top of the seventh inning, that’s all she would give up to Texas Tech as she helped seal the 4-2 victory for Long Beach.
Long Beach faces off next against Monmouth (7-8) Thursday, and Sowder believes the most important thing her team can be is “ready.”
“They know that they need to be resting and be smart outside of the field,” Sowder said. “[They know] to be on top of their studies so that when they come here they can get focused on the game. Every game is important and every game matters, we talk about that a lot, so we can’t afford to let up.”