OLIVE PARK ? With Sarah Biggs in the circle, Providence High is a softball team that possesses a consummate pitching game to go with a solid hitting attack.
However, Biggs ? a junior who earned first-team All-CIF Southern Section Division VII honors last season ? suffered a severely bruised ankle last week and will likely be sidelined for a few more weeks.
Without their ace, the Pioneers realize they will probably have to outslug their opponents to gain wins.
Against visiting Westridge Thursday in a nonleague game at Olive Park, Providence hit the ball well, but came up a little short in an 8-7 loss.
In Biggs' absence, the Pioneers (2-1) have had to rely on junior Natalie Kasbarian to handle the pitching duties. Kasbarian (2-1) has performed admirably, gaining nonleague wins against Brentwood and L.A. Lutheran.
Against the Tigers, however, Kasbarian got in her share of jams, giving up nine hits, striking out four and walking one.
"We know with Natalie [in the circle] we have to play well behind her," said Providence Coach Maggie Boozel, whose team is ranked No. 3 in Division VII. "We didn't do that [Thursday].
"I think the main reason why we lost is that we made some mistakes in the field that led to runs."
Westridge pitcher Taylor Daugherty (2-1) survived one bad inning to gain the win. Along with surrendering nine hits ? five in the second inning when Providence scored all seven of its runs ? she struck out nine and walked three.
In their first two games, Boozel said her Pioneers saw nothing like the velocity and pitch variance that Daugherty possessed.
"I am surprised that we were able to get as many hits as we did against this pitcher," Boozel said. "The other pitchers we faced were a lot slower.
"But I would much rather face a pitcher like we did [Thursday]. It does our hitters no good to go against a pitcher who just barely gets the ball over the plate."
With three weeks left until the Pioneers begin defense of their Liberty League championship, Boozel said she is hoping Biggs will be completely healed by that time.
Biggs proved invaluable to the team last season, posting a 12-4 record with a 1.44 earned-run average, 119 strikeouts and 12 walks in 102 innings.
"We still have time until league starts," Boozel said. "This was only our third game of the season and we will regroup and come back."
Providence appeared to have Daugherty figured out when it exploded for seven runs on five hits in the second inning. With a double from Shannon McShane and base hits from Katrina Ford-Moss, Danielle Austin, Lauren Suedkamp and Racheal Brunner, the Pioneers brought 13 batters to the plate in the inning.
The Pioneers also scored three runs when Tigers' left fielder Emma Mayberry dropped a pop-fly by Suedkamp with the bases loaded.
However, Daugherty breezed through the next four innings, allowing just two hits.
Westridge's big inning was the sixth, when it scored four runs on two hits.
The Tigers were led by third baseman Lauren Dietrich, who had two inside-the-park home runs, three hits, scored three runs and knocked in three runs.
Down by one in the bottom of the seventh inning, Providence put itself in position to score the tying run. With two outs, Melissa Veldes beat out an infield single and went to second on a throwing error. She was replaced by pinch runner Melanie Barrera.
With a runner in scoring position, Brunner slugged a single to shallow centerfield. With Barrera motoring home on the play, Westridge's Veronica Escobedo charged the ball and made a perfect throw to the plate to get the sliding runner.
"I was sending [Barrera] all the way on the play. We needed the run," Boozel said.
Brunner was three for four with a triple and Austin was two for four.