Orange Cove softball drops extra inning thriller

Three rallies fall short as Fowler pulls out Easter Classic championship by 6-4 score, Reedley defeats Dinuba to capture third place

Reedley High’s Candi Moreno is greeted at home plate by her teammates after belting a home run during the Pirates’ 7-6 victory over Dinuba High in the third place game of the Fowler Easter Classic softball tournament on March 27. The senior catcher belted a pair of home runs in the victory. (Danny Jimenez)
Reedley High’s Candi Moreno is greeted at home plate by her teammates after belting a home run during the Pirates’ 7-6 victory over Dinuba High in the third place game of the Fowler Easter Classic softball tournament on March 27. The senior catcher belted a pair of home runs in the victory. (Danny Jimenez)
Jon Earnest
Published March 28, 2024  • 
11:00 am

FOWLER – The championship game of the Fowler Easter Classic softball tournament Wednesday night had a little bit of everything — strong pitching, clutch hitting, home runs, an ejection and a dramatic extra innings finish.

In the end, the host Fowler High Redcats came up with the bigger plays and pulled out a 6-4 triumph over Orange Cove High in nine innings before a large vocal crowd at Marshall Elementary School in Fowler on March 27. It capped a four-game tourney run for Fowler (12-4) while snapping a three-game streak for two-time reigning Division V section champion Titans (6-9).

Orange Cove’s early season record is a deceiving one, as the team has played against multiple Division I and II competition. And head coach Victor Contreras is hoping to take the most out of the loss to the Division IV-based Redcats.

“I told (the players) I want them to cheer (for Fowler after the game), I want them to feel what it feels like to lose and how you don’t want that feeling,” he said. “(I told them) you’re going to stand there and listen to them clap and jump up and down. Remember that feeling, so when you go back to practice, you work double hard.”

For happy Fowler head coach Marissa Marquez, it was a wild swing of emotions. After being ejected in the top of the eighth inning for vehemently arguing a fair-foul call on a bunt that ultimately cost her team a run, she was unable to see up close her team’s heroics in the eighth and ninth innings.

“It was everything that you want in a game and more, it’s what we live for and what we play for,” she said. “I’ve stressed all season: We complement each other and our pitchers complement each other. We need to stay together as a team and we’re there to have each other’s back and not play selfish.”

Fowler twice took two-run lead in extras; the first time in the eighth when after Marquez’s ejection Stephanie Sanchez roped a two-run home run to left-center off Titans’ star pitcher Mia Castillo. Senior Sanchez shared top all-tournament honors with Castillo.

Senior third baseman Star Elizondo lined an RBI single to right field off Fowler starter Bradie Monis, and Castillo tied the score with a sacrifice fly to right off reliever Jaelyn Quintana in the bottom of the frame. Maddie Powers then lined out to deep center with the winning run on third base.

Undaunted, Fowler came right back getting a bunt single, RBI fielder’s choice and another hit to plate two runs in the top of the ninth. There was a stellar defensive play by Redcats left fielder Andreya Mendoza, in which she made a lunging running catch then short-circuited a potential game-tying comeback. The game then ended when a ground ball to short hit Powers running to third base.

Marquez praised her team’s defensive play, which included a number of nice catches and stellar range displayed by freshman centerfielder Danika Serrano. “She’s really showing the maturity out there for being as young as she is right now,” the coach said.

Elizondo finished with two of Orange Cove’s six hits including a double, while Castillo drove in two runs. The senior righthander was touched for 11 hits and three earned runs, but did collect five strikeouts.

Orange Cove has a pair of non-league games next week, traveling to Woodlake on Wednesday, April 3, and then hosting Corcoran on Friday, April 5. Both games have scheduled 5 p.m. starts.

Reedley 7, Dinuba 6

In the Easter Classic third place game, the Pirates (9-7) got a pair of home runs from senior catcher Candi Moreno and another longball from Jaylene Vasquez to edge past the Emperors (4-10). Pitchers Sierra Hallum and Delillah Marin combined to get the victory while Jamilah Taylor earned all-tournament honors.

Reedley High travels to Sanger High for a non-league matchup against the Apaches at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, then opens Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division play at home against Hanford West on Tuesday, April 9. Dinuba hosts Taft High in a 4 p.m. non-league game Thursday, April 4, before launching its West Yosemite League season Tuesday, April 9 at home against Hanford.

Jon Earnest
Reporter