IRVINE — It's hard to win a softball game without scoring any runs.
It's hard to score any runs without getting any hits.
Therein lied the dilemma for the Newport Harbor High softball team. The Sailors came into the prestigious Woodbridge Softball Classic at a bad time to be slumping.
They were "mercied" twice in pool-play games Saturday at Bill Barber Park. Newport Harbor fell to Pomona Catholic, 7-0, before losing to El Modena, 6-0. Both games were called after the sixth inning as Newport Harbor was losing by more than six runs.
But at least in the El Modena game, the Sailors were more competitive. They did not make an error and collected two hits, one each by junior Breanna Lopez and freshman Zoey Myers. Lopez singled with two outs in the seventh and stole second base. But then Hattie Marshall was robbed of an RBI single as her blooper was snagged by the El Modena shortstop, and the game ended.
It was that kind of day for the Sailors (10-5), who finished last in their four-team pool and will likely play a bronze bracket game at the tournament on Monday. The Sailors have been outscored, 39-0, in their last four games.
They are banged up. Myers, who normally plays catcher, played first base Saturday because of shoulder problems. Coach Russell Hartman said senior Sam Sanchez, who can also catch, is dealing with a bruised hand. Junior Hope Noakes, normally the first baseman, filled in admirably behind the plate.
The opener Saturday was against Pomona Catholic, a team that the Sailors had defeated, 3-1, in the Savanna tournament on March 24. This time, Pomona Catholic senior pitcher Amber Padilla fired a no-hitter. Junior Hanna Van Voorhis was the only Sailor to get on base, on a throwing error in the third inning.
"We're a little banged up, but that's not the problem," Newport Harbor Coach Russell Hartman said. "The problem is our hitting. We're not hitting the ball at all. We put absolutely no pressure on them whatsoever."
The Sailors only managed to hit a combined two for 35 in the two games, a .057 average. They have lost five straight since a 10-0 start, though, to be fair, they have played elite programs like Edison, Marina and El Modena in that time span.
"In the beginning, we were so used to winning," said Lopez, a team captain. "I think we just need to change our attitude. We're playing at practice speed right now, and we need to keep up with [our opponents]. We need to play game speed now. This is like the big leagues. We just need to pick it up. I'm sure we're going to get there, and we're going to be winning some games in league."
El Modena pitchers Maddy Neales and Jenna McCune combined for a two-hitter in the second pool-play game. Newport Harbor was down just 3-0 after five innings, but senior shortstop Alyson Kulp had a two-run home run in the sixth for the Vanguards (13-4).
Lopez and Van Voorhis, in left field and at second base respectively, made defensive plays to help keep the Sailors competitive. Sophomore right fielder Mariah Cruz also made a nice catch, snagging a foul ball.
A challenge for Hartman is to keep the Sailors' passion high as the level of competition increases.
"That's something we're working on right now," Hartman said. "I honestly don't think we've been doing a very good job of that, being able to stay up. I think something like that [game against El Modena] helps. To us, it was a good game. That's something that we can build on, and I think we're just looking for something to happen that we can build on."