NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Despite a 2-0 loss to Antelope Valley College at the Glendale Sports Complex on Wednesday, the Glendale Community College softball team had a brighter outlook on the bulk of the season that still lies ahead.
The Vaqueros' optimism came from the solid outing turned in by No. 1 starting pitcher Jennifer Meza, who limited an Antelope Valley lineup averaging better than eight runs a game to just one earned run on four hits in seven innings and acknowledged she's on her way to reestablishing the form that made her an All-Western State Conference pick as a freshman.
"It was definitely like a pitchers' duel," said Meza, who also had 11 strikeouts to three walks and had to work around five errors. "I haven't really been pitching to my potential, so today it was like, 'OK, I'm back, now don't let yourself fall back down.'
"I feel like it's a stepping stone for myself to do better now. I feel like I started off on the wrong foot and this is my chance to redeem myself."
The 2-0 result was the closest any team has played the unbeaten Marauders (9-0) this season, although the Vaqueros (2-4) wound up being just the latest lineup to be handcuffed by Antelope Valley ace Christian Carbajal, who allowed just two hits over seven innings while striking out 12 to improve to 8-0.
"She hasn't given up too many [runs] to anybody," Glendale Coach Dave "Hawk" Wilder said of Carbajal. "Not taking anything away from her, she did a great job, but Meza did just as well, they couldn't hit her."
Meza also notched Glendale's second hit of the ballgame to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning. She was lifted for pinch-runner Casey Nicodemus, who made the final out when Rachael Allen lined into a game-ending 6-3 double play two batters later.
While the game was a pitchers' duel throughout, it appeared for a while that it might come down to a pitch that was never thrown.
Meza's first spot of trouble of the day came in the fourth inning, which Hayley Sullivan led off with a single to center field. A nine-pitch battle between Meza and next batter Adriana Perez ended with a walk and the Marauders had the bases loaded after a successful sacrifice by Cherstin Dahlin and a four-pitch walk to Jessica Saldaña.
But before Meza could make an offering to Brooke Farrell, she was distracted by the coaching staff calling out instructions to the infield and disrupted her delivery, prompting a run-scoring illegal pitch call from the home plate umpire.
Meza got the final two outs on a strikeout and a tapper back to the circle and it remained a one-run game going into the top of the seventh.
A leadoff single, this one by Jasmine Lopez, proved to be costly once again, as Lopez went to third on a fielding error on a sacrifice bunt attempt and scored three batters later on a one-out sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.
Glendale recorded its first hit in the bottom of the second on a Brittni Spear grounder up the third-base line. Spear would get into scoring position by stealing second base with two outs, but was stranded there, as Carbajal struck out the side. The Vaqueros would get base runners in three of the next four innings, as well, on two walks and a hit batter, but couldn't drive any in.
"This is the way she should be playing, we haven't played like this and [Meza] finally pitched the game she can pitch," Wilder said. "This team has seven girls hitting over. 500. You're talking about a pitchers' duel and we just didn't hit the ball enough. That's our problem still, not going up there with an attitude from our hitters."