Sanger softball flexes muscles in Visalia

Apaches belt pair of home runs in 11-2 rout of Mt. Whitney, improve to 10-1 season entering home showdown March 21 against 9-1-1 Buchanan

Sanger High’s Jayden Herrera heads toward third base after belting a solo home run off Mt. Whitney High pitcher Selena Lopez (1) during the third inning of the Apaches’ 11-2 thumping of the Pioneers in a non-league softball game March 19 in Visalia. Senior shortstop Herrera went 2-for-4 with three runs scored in the victory. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published March 20, 2024  • 
11:00 am

VISALIA – A brief road trip to Tulare County didn’t deter the Sanger High softball team from its usual routine in the 2024 season — racking up victories.

The Apaches collected nine hits including a pair of home runs Tuesday afternoon, and three pitchers kept host Mt. Whitney High in check on the way to an 11-2 non-league rout of the Pioneers. Sanger (10-1) won its third straight game since its only blemish of the season; a 6-0 shutout loss to Kingsburg at the Central Showdown in Fresno on March 15.

Coach Erica Pennington went with multiple pitchers to allow junior ace Amber Estrada to be fresh for Thursday’s 4 p.m. home showdown against Buchanan High. The Bears improved to 9-1-1 with a 2-1 home win over Madera.

“Right now, our goal was to go with Amber for three innings and get our other two pitchers some innings. We need to utilize all of our staff that we have right now,” she said. “I thought it was a total team effort. You know if you’re in the dugout for one day and you’re not starting, you know we can utilize (all the players).”

Two of Sanger’s key seniors, Alyssa Martinez and Jayden Herrera, paced the offense with solo home runs. First baseman Martinez launched a long shot to right center for her first homer of the season as the Apaches built a 5-0 lead after two innings. Shortstop Herrera then went deep for the third time in 2024, belting a towering shot to straightaway left in a two-run third inning.

That was more than enough support for Estrada, who allowed just one hit and struck out three in her three innings of work. Junior Taryn East came on and worked two innings, but had to leave the game after being struck in the foot with a ball that resulted in her loading the bases with no outs in the sixth inning.

Senior Nayoma Contraras took to the rubber at that time, and after yielding a pair of RBI singles got out of the jam with a popup and double play grounder. She then closed out the game with a perfect seventh inning including a strikeout.

The Apaches also got RBI singles from Sierra Wyrick, Audrey Ortiz and Arianah Cardoso. Herrera and Wyrick had two hits apiece while Martinez joined Wyrick and Cardoso with two runs batted in. Pennington was pleased with the team’s patience at the plate, as Sanger hitters collected six bases on balls against two Mt. Whitney pitchers.

For the Pioneers (2-9), starting pitcher Serena Lopez and shortstop Aubrey Aquino drove in runs in the sixth inning. Mt. Whitney will participate in the Golden West Tournament starting Monday, March 25 with an 11:15 a.m. game against Lemoore.

Sanger, meanwhile, jumps from its big game with Buchanan into a competitive Tulare Tournament starting on Saturday, March 23. The Apaches open with games against Bakersfield schools Liberty (11-1) at 9 a.m. and Centennial (9-2) at 11 a.m. That’s followed by a Monday, March 25 at 9 a.m. game against Frontier (7-3) in a rematch of last year’s Central Section Division I semifinal, won by the Titans.

“We’ve been working real well together,” Pennington said of her squad. “They’re not selfish, and they’re all about team first. They’re really meashing (together) well and doing a great job.”

Jon Earnest