The current version of the Newport Harbor High softball team is not ignorant, but it is breaking all the rules of past seasons.
Seven underclassmen started for the Sailors on Wednesday, and they know full well the history of the program in league play.
When it came to the Sunset League, Newport Harbor struggled. The last win against a traditional Sunset League opponent came at home against Fountain Valley in 2013.
This season, the Sailors and the Barons were placed in the Wave League. As far as Newport Harbor is concerned, it has brought a new attitude to the new league.
Newport Harbor pounded out 15 hits as a team, and it ultimately held on to win 16-14 at Fountain Valley to complete a perfect first round of league action.
Sophomore center fielder Eliana Gottlieb went four for five with five runs batted in to lead the Sailors (13-5, 4-0 in league).
“I think it’s good to see a win come out of it,” Gottlieb said. “It shows that we’re a team and everyone works together. Last year, we lost every single league game, and it’s the complete opposite this year. It’s really awesome.”
Sophomore shortstop Lindsey Blanchfield had three hits and scored following each of her five plate appearances.
Leah Freeman, McKayla Cotton, Dru Stinson and Blanchfield each drove in two runs. Kendall Kelly had three hits for Newport Harbor.
The game resembled a tug of war. Newport Harbor exploded for 10 runs in the third inning, and it added a run in the fourth to extend its lead to 12-3.
Fountain Valley came back with three runs in the bottom half of the fourth. The Barons (5-10-1, 1-1) rallied with six more runs in the fifth inning to narrow the gap to 13-11.
Samara Ortega had the two biggest swings for the Barons, doubling twice with the bases loaded to account for her five RBIs.
In the late innings, the Barons all came to their feet and were pounding on the dugout fence in support of their teammates.
“It was very loud,” Ortega said. “I really liked it. We were banging on everything. We had a chance to compete, and I’m glad the score was close at the end.”
Fountain Valley’s Samantha Araiza had three hits, including a two-run double with the bases loaded in the fifth. CJ Garcia went two for three with four runs scored, Kayla Vidal scored three times, and Brooke Pace chipped in with two hits.
“That’s one thing that we’ve done all season,” Barons coach Rick Aldrich said of his team’s resolve. “They don’t give up. They’ll continue to battle the whole time, and the bats were good today.”
Cotton halted the comeback by throwing a scoreless sixth inning, and the Sailors tipped the scales further in their favor with three runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Blanchfield set the table for the Sailors, grounding a single through the middle at the end of a seven-pitch at-bat. The next four batters also reached for Newport Harbor, which opened its lead back up to 16-11.
“We definitely had a lot of errors in the field, but I think that we just kept pressing on with our runs, and that really helped us,” Blanchfield said. “We were smart at the plate and smart base runners.”
Fountain Valley brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh inning, but Cotton cut down a run at home on a fielder’s choice to get the second out and closed out the game with a strikeout.
“We haven’t beaten them since 2013, so that’s a good win for us,” Sailors coach Tom Blanchfield said. “I know they’re down this year, but I think we’re going to get better next year, so I’m delighted.”