Providence softball survives shaky start to earn win

BURBANK — With a crop of good hitters, the Providence High softball team has proven it can score runs this season.

The first indication of that came last week when the Pioneers pushed across 16 runs in a victory against Holy Family to open the season.

In a nonleague game Tuesday against Oakwood, the Providence offense was at it again, this time to the tune of a 22-run effort. However, the Pioneers' defense did struggle at times against the Gorillas, who were able to take an early lead. But Providence was able to fight its way back to earn a 22-11 victory at Olive Park.

The game was halted in the bottom of the fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.

"We know we have the capability to score our share of runs this season for sure," said Providence Coach Joel Curtis, whose team is 2-0. "But we have to learn to be selective at the plate and we have to have quality at-bats. Another thing I would like to see the girls do more is to be able to adjust from one at-bat to another."

The Pioneers used four big innings to turn back Oakwood (1-1). The team scored five runs in the second inning, four in the third, seven in the fourth and five more in the fifth that prompted the mercy rule.

The offense was paced by freshman catcher Chisty Hoffman, who was three for five with a home run, four funs scored and four runs batted in. Teammate Meghan Mai, a junior first baseman, was three for five with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored.

In the taking-three-for-the-team department, junior shortstop Dominique Dominguez came to the plate five times, but had no at-bats after she was hit by pitches three times along with drawing two walks. Dominguez also scored three runs.

Against Oakwood pitcher Alex Cooperman, who didn't have a lot of velocity on her pitches, the Pioneers hitters had to make some adjustments.

"I was a little nervous hitting today because of the way she was throwing." Hoffman said of the hurler. "I just had to move up in the box and be ready for the pitches that she was throwing."

Before the Pioneers could even take their first at-bats, they were already behind. That's because Providence starting pitcher Sierra Nelson struggled in the first inning and the Gorillas took advantage. Nelson walked one and gave up two hits in the top of the first. Oakwood also took advantage of two Pioneers errors to jump to a 3-0 lead.

The Pioneers were able to get one of those runs back in their half of the first. With two out, Hoffman reached base on an error and scored on an error off the bat of Mai.

Nelson again got herself into a bind in the second inning and wasn't helped by two errors committed behind her. The senior surrendered three walks and a base hit as the Gorillas tacked on three more runs to take a 6-1 advantage.

"These girls just keep playing," Curtis said. "They may get fall behind in a game, but they just go out there and play and they end up doing pretty well. They do what we ask them to do and they are always willing to go out there and try."

It was in the bottom of the second when the Providence offense started to come alive. In the frame, the Pioneers sent 10 batters to the plate and pushed across five runs to knot the score at 6. Providence tallied four walks in the second off of Cooperman.

The Pioneers benefited by a solid performance from Nelson in the third and fourth innings, as she settled down and retired the side in order in both frames.

"Sierra is a big part of why we are successful and we have a lot of respect for her," Hofmann said.

Providence took a 10-6 lead with four runs in the bottom of the third inning. Again, the Pioneers brought 10 batters to the plate and received RBIs from Hoffman, Mai and Dominguez, who was plunked with the bases leaded.

The Pioneers received home runs by Hoffman and Mai in the fourth inning to create some breathing room with a 17-6 lead.

However, the Gorillas battled back and tallied five runs in the top of the fifth inning to get back within six, 17-11.

But once again the Pioneers responded, scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth, highlighted by a two-run single by junior third baseman Veronica Abuyog and a run-scoring triple by sophomore shortstop Fabi Jimenez (two for four with three runs scored and an RBI).

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