County softball holds on to edge out city

Five-run outburst in fifth inning proves to be the difference in City/County All-Star match, game-ending baserunning out enables Castillo to close out 9-7 victory

Allison Wood from Immanuel High bats during the fourth inning of the County’s 9-7 victory over the City in the 42nd annual All-Star softball game on Wednesday, June 19 at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond. The rightfielder struck out in her lone plate appearance, but also scored during her pinch-running stint in a five-run fifth inning rally. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published June 21, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

FRESNO — Things became a little dicey in the late innings, but the County All-Stars made it four straight victories in the annual softball rivalry with their city counterparts.

The 42nd annual matchup before a large crowd at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond was essentially decided in the fourth and fifth innings, when the County erupted for all its runs to build a 9-2 lead before hanging on for a 9-7 victory. That sliced the City’s series lead to 19-13 in 32 years (the other 10 games had directional formats for the teams).

The County had it set up to close out the victory behind Orange Cove ace pitcher Mia Castillo, who came on with two outs in the seventh inning of the nine-inning format inheriting a 9-5 lead. A throwing error allowed a run to score before Castillo ended the inning with a strikeout.

After retiring the side in the eighth and the first two batters in the ninth, the City touched Castillo for three consecutive hits. The final hit drove in the seventh run, but Fresno High’s Kona Noggle was cut down at third base trying to end the game. Castilllo picked up the save.

The County took the lead to stay in the fourth inning, getting a two-run single from Fowler High’s Stephanie Sanchez who later scored on a double steal for a 4-2 lead. Reedley High catcher Candince Moreno-Hairabedian then fouled off six pitches with two strikes to draw an 11-pitch walk that helped ignite a five-run fifth inning.

Pinch-runner Allison Wood from Immanuel High scored one of those runs, as the County added a pair of hits and two of the City’s six errors on the night to build the lead to 9-2. Wood — who will play volleyball at College of the Sequoias this fall — also struck out in her lone plate appearance and put in a two-inning defensive stint in right field.

Another Orange Cove product, third baseman Star Elizondo, was hitless in her two plate appearances but finished off the game after re-entering in the late innings. The Titans veteran was one of three players in the game who plan to continue their softball careers for Cal State-Monterey Bay.

Sanger High stars Alyssa Martinez and Jayden Herrera both were on the City squad, and Martinez drove in the team’s first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning while drawing the start at first base. Herrera (playing third base after coming on in the third innings) went hitless in her two at-bats. Both standout players said they are still considering their college options for playing at the next level.

Moreno-Hairabedian, who led Reedley High in home runs this spring with seven, plans to continue her collegiate career at Reedley College. A number of players in the game will be bolstering community college rosters at Fresno City, Reedley and COS; in addition to a number of Division I and small university recruits. One notable D-I recruit was Central High’s Jayden Ramos, who earned a scholarship to play for the University of Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference.

Before the game, Fresno-area veteran softball coach and community booster Sam Chavez was inducted into the Class of 2024 City-County All-Star Softball Hall of Fame. During his stint as game organizer from the late 1990s to 2008, he returned the annual game to its original City-County format with a shuffling of schools to keep competitive balance.

Jon Earnest