Providence High softball Coach Austin Gibson figured Flintridge Prep wouldn’t expect the unexpected.
In one fell swoop, a suicide-squeeze bunt that traveled about five feet allowed Providence to earn its most dramatic win of the season and, in turn, shock Flintridge Prep.
Missy Valdes laid down the bunt with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded to give Providence a 4-3 victory against Flintridge Prep on Wednesday afternoon in a nonleague game at Olive Park’s Lloyd Thomas Field.
Valdes and the Pioneers (3-3) practice bunting at practice daily with the notion that it might help win them a game. That proved to be the case Wednesday.
After Valdes’ bunt scored Ariane Lebrilla with the winning run, she didn’t run the entire way to first base. Valdes watched Lebrilla slide across home plate before realizing that she needed to touch first to make the game official.
It took some encouragement from Gibson to help Valdes, a senior third baseman, lead the way to victory.
“I’m about 80 percent confident with my bunting,” said Valdes, who met briefly with Gibson moments before winning the contest that saw Flintridge Prep (5-3) tie the game in the top of the seventh. “We do it at practice for a few minutes.
“I stopped running and started jumping. I saw that she had been safe, but I still had to tag first.”
Flintridge Prep tied the game at 3 on a clutch two-out single by Emma Vine with two outs in the seventh. But the Rebels couldn’t keep their momentum once they took the field in the seventh.
Flintridge Prep, which last qualified for the postseason in 2005 when it advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division V championship contest, overcame a 3-1 deficit.
It scored single runs in the third and seventh.
Flintridge Prep third-year Coach Julie Jaime said the Rebels didn’t expect Valdes to bunt.
“Definitely not with two outs,” Jaime said. “They had the speed for it, and it was perfect execution.
“We have to take something from this game and learn from it. I’d rather this happen in a nonleague game than a league game.”
“We figured Flintridge Prep could explode at any minute if the game went into extra innings,” said Gibson, whose team finished with five hits. “We tell them that they might need to bunt at some point because it’s just another weapon.”
Flintridge Prep grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when junior shortstop Alina Khodadian stole home with two outs.
However, Providence responded in their half of the inning with three runs on just one hit against Flintridge Prep starting pitcher Lydia Kay (4-2).
Kay, a left-hander, struggled with her control in the first. She walked three and hit a pair of batters to give the Pioneers a 3-1 lead. Lebrilla, Andrea Rubalcava and Sarah Lohman each scored one run in the first.
Kay settled down, striking out nine.
Providence freshman starting pitcher Bronwyn Stewart (3-3) picked up the victory.