Clare Austin leads Newport Harbor softball to victory over rival CdM

The spirit of the Back Bay rivals has not always been wholly represented when it comes to the teams’ records on the softball field.

Entering their annual Battle of the Bay, Newport Harbor High and Corona del Mar were headed in the wrong direction. The Sailors had lost their last six, while CdM had dropped four in a row.

Although Newport Harbor has not experienced a lot of winning in recent years, it has been able to get up for a game against its crosstown rival.

Sophomore Clare Austin struck out eight in a complete game, and the host Sailors defeated CdM 4-1 on Tuesday to win the Battle of the Bay for the third consecutive year.

The teams split their meetings last season, but CdM’s win came in the Savanna Showcase.

Austin allowed just two hits. The run against her was unearned.

“It’s just a fun game to bring the team together,” Austin said of the rivalry game. “That’s how I see it. The girls are really good on both teams, so it’s a lot of good, friendly competition.”

Six of Austin’s strikeouts came looking. Asked about her effectiveness within the strike zone, Austin said, “I was hitting my spots really well, and my movement was working. Typically, my job is to get the person out, whether it’s a strikeout or it’s hit to somebody on my team.

“My team does a really good job of backing me up, so I’m really grateful to them for that. It’s a team sport for a reason.”

The Sailors (3-9) did help Austin out defensively. In the second inning, a 3-6-4 double play was turned by first baseman Eliana Gottlieb, shortstop Lindsey Blanchfield and second baseman Alexis Amaro.

“It was really exciting because we can do those in practice when there [are] no runners on, but it’s kind of rare that we get to do it in a game where we actually execute it,” Blanchfield said of the double play. “It was nice where kind of all of us were participating, and it all worked out.”

Amaro had a couple of errors in the game, but she atoned for them with one spectacular play in the seventh inning. Pinch hitter Candice Venuto sent a sinking line drive up the middle. Amaro ranged in front of second base and caught the ball on a dive just before it hit the ground.

“I had to make sure that nobody got on,” Amaro said. “I wasn’t really planning to do that. It just kind of happened because I usually never get those plays.”

Newport Harbor broke a scoreless tie in the fourth on an RBI single by Austin.

CdM (3-5-1) answered back in the fifth. Audrey Tumbarello and Ireland Horvat singled, and the Sea Kings pushed a run across when Amaro bobbled the transfer after fielding a ground ball off the bat of Amerys Barshtak.

Sea Kings starter Sophia Skerik was pulled in favor of Trasara Alexander to begin the bottom of the fifth. The Sailors regained the lead in short order. Natalie Palmer drew a leadoff walk. After a strikeout, Blanchfield singled to left. The ball got through the legs of left fielder Aya Prow, allowing a run to score.

The Sailors turned two hits and two errors into a three-run inning, with Gottlieb and Kendall Kelly picking up RBIs.

A positive for CdM was the defense of Sapphire Angely-Veron behind the plate. She tagged out a runner trying to score on a comebacker to Skerik, and she also threw out a runner attempting to steal third.

“This was actually the first baserunner that we’ve thrown out this year,” Sea Kings coach Jordann Wakabayashi said. “I could not be happier. It was a perfect throw.”

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner