Immanuel flies high with fast league start

Herrera tosses pair of shutouts as Eagles down Exeter and Washington Union to open Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division play

Immanuel High’s Ava Regier slides safely into second with a stolen base as Washington Union shortstop Zoe Freitas awaits the throw during the second inning of the Eagles’ 3-0 victory over the Panthers on April 12. Regier went on to score the first run of the game. (Jon Earnest)
Immanuel High’s Ava Regier slides safely into second with a stolen base as Washington Union shortstop Zoe Freitas awaits the throw during the second inning of the Eagles’ 3-0 victory over the Panthers on April 12. Regier went on to score the first run of the game. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published April 12, 2024  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY – Timely hitting, solid pitching and efficient defense vaulted the Immanuel High softball team into first place in the early stages of the Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division season.

Amanda Herrera twirled her second straight five-hit shutout, striking out nine as the Eagles (11-5, 2-0) posted a 3-0 victory over Washington Union at The Nest in the Immanuel Sports Complex on April 12. That win followed a 14-0 road rout of Exeter on April 9, and ran the team’s win streak to seven games.

Junior pitcher Herrera showed pinpoint control in the two wins, striking out nine each game and allowing no walks. A catcher’s interference call against Washington Union put the tying run on base in the fifth inning, but on a single right fielder Ellyan Thomas threw out a baserunner at third to end a rally and the Eagles then iced the win with two runs in the bottom of the fifth.

“Amanda has done a great job this year. The last few games she’s been real tough,” Immanuel coach Ryan Wood said of Herrera. “The defense has shown up, you win games by scoring one run and doing the little things.”

Wood said Immanuel struggled more than usual offensively as Washington Union (9-7, 0-1) pitched its number two pitcher, Callie Flores, because of an injury to its ace. Flores allowed just three hits, but the Eagles made the most of their opportunities.

The only run Immanuel would need came in the second inning, Ava Regier reached on an error after hitting an infield chopper, then stole second. After advancing to third on a groundout by Addison Effird, Regier scored on a wild pitch.

Herrera worked out of a jam in the third inning, stranding two baserunners when she gunned down Grenelei Finderup on a bunt attempt to end the inning. The throwout by Ellyann Thomas in the fifth inning was followed by a lineout to Herera to end the inning.

Immanuel then tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Maritzah Cibrian (1-for-3) reached base on a dropped throw after laying down a bunt, and a groundout and sacrifice moved her to third. Leah Thomas followed with a run-scoring single to center. Allison Wood then beat out a well-placed bunt, and when the throw squibbed past first base Thomas raced around to score to make it 3-0.

“We did what we had to do to win,” Ryan Wood said. “The girls fought and played hard, and we won. And the key is to win every game, right?”

Immanuel’s hitting was much more productive against Exeter (9-9, 0-2), collecting 13 hits in five innings and putting up six runs in the fourth to break the game open. Allison Wood went 3-for-3 with four runs scored and two runs knocked in. Regier, Cibrian, Leah Thomas and Natalie Delgadillo all had two hits while Delgadllo had a triple and two RBI.

The Eagles host Central Valley Christian on Tuesday, April 16 (6:30 p.m.) and then have a 4 p.m. road game at second place Kerman (8-6, 3-1) on Thursday, April 18.

“We haven’t seen Kerman, haven’t seen CVC, but I think our team’s in the mix,” Coach Wood said. “And we’ve got Reedley High [in a cross division game] and I know they’re good, so we’re interested to see how we stack up against them.”

Jon Earnest
Reporter