County rallies for 6-3 victory in annual Fresno softball matchup

Sanger’s Layla Torres has key RBI double along with four-inning stint as starting pitcher, Orange Cove’s Alexia Lozano and Immanuel’s Allison Friesen also contribute to County scoring

Bullard High graduate Haley Reeve of the City All-Stars slides in with the game’s first run as County catcher Anahi Castillo of Orange Cove fields the late throw during the first inning of the City-County All-Star softball game in Fresno on June 21. Castillo went 0-for-1 with a walk and strikeout in the County’s 6-3 comeback victory. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published June 22, 2023  • 
3:00 pm

FRESNO – The County All-Stars had what it takes against the City in the Fresno City County Softball All-Star Game, rallying from an early three-run deficit to post a 6-3 victory in the 41st annual all-star softball game on June 21 at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond.

The County — featuring seven players from schools Sanger, Reedley and Orange Cove — scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to break a tie and went on to post its third straight victory in the series. Although trailing 19-12 in the City-County breakdown, the County has gone 9-4 since the format returned to City-County matchups in 2010.

All Mid Valley Times-area players were grouped together on the County squad, although the original roster breakdown had the three Sanger players on the City side. But the school was switched with Washington Union to ensure that both sides had an equal amount of pitching available.

Layla Torres, who helped pitch the Apaches to the Central Section Division II semifinals this spring, started in the pitching circle for the County and worked four innings allowing three runs on four hits with three strikeouts. But it was her bat that played a big part in the comeback, as she belted a run-scoring double in the seventh.

Andrea Soliz of Sierra Pacific in Hanford delivered the biggest hit of the night for the County, ripping an RBI triple to break a tie and later scoring. That earned her the County’s MVP honors, while Clovis North’s Naleya Bridges (two-run inside-the-park home run) was named MVP for the City.

Two graduated seniors from Orange Cove’s Division IV section champion team played key roles for the County. Shortstop Alexia Lozano came off the bench and delivered a single and later scored the team’s second run. Anahi Castillo started at catcher and had a walk in her two plate appearances.

Allison Friesen, first baseman for Immanuel High’s Tri County Conference co-champions, came on in the middle innings and drove in the second County run with a deep flyout to right field. Eagles teammate Tylee Erickson was named to the squad but was unable to play in the game.

Torres’ Sanger teammates, Anaya Garcia and Kiarra Cueva, saw action off the bench in right field and catcher, respectively. Garcia had an RBI during the County comeback while Cueva drew a walk.

Reedley High’s Trinity Sanchez, whose pitching and senior leadership helped carry the Pirates to the section Division III title game last month, dressed out but didn’t play due to a right shoulder injury. Sanchez said she believed she was injured in the section finals loss to Fowler, and will have the shoulder examined to see if surgery is needed.

The City grabbed the early advantage with a run in the first inning and two more in the third. Bridges lined a hard shot past Garcia in right field, circling the bases and beating the throw home to make it 3-0. The County began the comeback in the fourth by loading the bases and getting a run on Friesen’s sacrifice fly.

After the County tied the score in the fifth, Central’s Mia Nishikawa slammed the door on any more City offense. She relieved Torres to start the fifth inning, and from that point on allowed just two hits and struck out seven to close out the victory.

Kerman’s Ashlyn Melgoza had an RBI single during the three-run County seventh, and Laton’s Laylin Lopez also had a hit for the County. Madera’s Brianah Hamilton had a hit and an RBI for the City.

The Jenny Eller Most Inspirational Player Awards went to Edison’s Noemi Uribe for the City and Central’s Amara Klein for the County.

Jon Earnest