By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Staff Writer
Saugus softball (12-3, 4-0) blanked Valencia (11-8-1, 4-2) behind a one-hitter from starting pitcher Marina Provencio.
The ace shut out the highest-scoring team in the Foothill League, earning her the win in her six-strikeout performance on Wednesday.
“[Provencio] was in her zone,” said Saugus head coach Amanda Clark. “Almost 99% of her pitches, she hit. It was phenomenal. Those are some big-time hitters and she owned them today, so I’m very proud.”
Both teams entered the league matchup with big win streaks, Valencia winning their last five while Saugus’ win makes the count eight in a row.
The game was deadlocked through four innings as neither team could get runs on the board. Provencio kept every batter but one off base, Vikings’ second baseman Maia Paragas. The Vikings’ two-hole hitter batted 1-1 and reached first base twice.
Provencio threw four perfect innings when she didn’t see Paragas.
“I was staying calm and focusing on my pitches,” said Provencio, “and making sure to give them a variety of pitches and not put the same thing over and over. So I gave them different pitches to confuse them and it really worked.”
Saugus couldn’t finish their early innings and stranded six base runners before finally getting one across the plate.
Saugus third baseman Caitilin Connolly would drive a ball to Valencia shortstop Jeanelle Bacat, who was playing solidly until a costly error scooping the ball. The error got the first runner across the plate.
Valencia ace Casey Edwards also excelled on the mound. The reigning league pitcher of the year got out of jams left and right before the first run cost the Vikings.
The Vikings tried to run with whatever momentum they could. In the sixth inning, Paragas sprinted to second base after a ball just slipped away from Saugus catcher Kaylie Stauffer. Stauffer would recover quickly and somehow pick off the speedy Paragas at second for the third out.
Valencia had a big bat in Addie Snyder aiming to tie the game but the mistake cost the Vikings.
Edwards kept her team alive against a great Saugus offense including leadoff hitter Alyssa Ramirez. Edwards got the better of Ramirez her first two trips up before Ramirez got her first hit in the fifth.
However, the leadoff hitter waited patiently to give her team more comfort room and delivered in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run home run.
Ramirez now has four homers in her last four games.
Provencio then would need to retire the side one more time, and the senior never faltered. The Saugus ace struck out two of her last three batters to seal the shutout victory.
“We’re a good team, we know it,” said Ramirez. “We know what we can do.”
The Saugus win streak continues after Wednesday’s win handed Valencia their first shutout loss in three years.
“You got to put the ball in play and force them to play defense,” said Valencia head coach Donna Lee. “We had too many popped-up balls and strikeouts. You’ve got to give them credit, they played better than us.”
The Vikings will be off the rest of the week before heading to Hart (10-4, 3-1) on Tuesday.
The Centurions were set to play in their third straight game without a day off Thursday when Saugus was to host Castaic.
“This team is special because they fight,” said Clark. “We don’t have those big kids anymore but we have so much heart on this team.”