Kiwanis comes on late for 6-3 junior win

MONTROSE — Cross-town rivalries usually bring out the best in teams. That wasn't the case when two Crescenta Valley teams, Kiwanis and Muir-Chase, combined for six errors, eight walks and five hit batters in a first-round game of the Tri-City Junior Division Softball Tournament.

There was only one hit between the Crescenta Valley teams after five and a half innings of play. Kiwanis' bats finally came alive in the bottom of the fifth for two big hits and three runs in a 6-3 victory over Muir.

Will Thayer, Kiwanis' coach, was proud of his team's ability to make the adjustment at the plate and pick up the win, even if it wasn't pretty.

"The girls were chasing a lot of bad balls," Thayer said. "I told them to lay off the high stuff and make sure it was something they could handle. It finally sunk in a little bit."

The game looked like it might be a high-scoring affair, as both teams put up three runs in the first inning, but pitching ended up dominating most of the contest.

"Obviously, it was a sloppy game for both sides, there were very few hits," said Muir's Coach John Heurkins.

Muir took control early on in the game, after it loaded the bases with one out in the first inning with a single and two errors. Olivia Thayer, Kiwanis' pitcher, looked like she danced out of danger after she struck out the next two batters. Her catcher, Clair O'Conner, dropped the third strike on the second putout, though, and was confused when the runners started coming home.

O'Conner didn't think runners could advance on a dropped third strike with two outs and the bases loaded. When she realized she could, she fired a throw to first that bounced off the runner's back. Paige Trestrail, Kiwanis' first baseman, fired a throw home but it was off target and a total of three runners scored on the play.

"We didn't really understand what was going on, it's a learning experience in a way," said Olivia, who came back to strike out the next batter to end the inning.

Thayer turned in a gem, however, tossing a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts to just one walk.

"This team is our rival, so I tried my best to strike people out and hit my spots," she said. "This game meant a lot to me."

Muir's early 3-0 lead didn't faze Kiwanis, which answered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the first to tie the game.

"It's sort of a trademark," Will Thayer said. "We don't seem to play well early, for whatever reason the first inning has not been kind to us. They weren't rattled because they had been there before."

Kellyn O'Leary, Muir's pitcher, loaded the bases with no outs in the first after hitting a batter and issuing two walks. Trestrail worked a bases-loaded walk with one out and Shiyin Lim brought home two runs with a fielder's choice ground ball to shortstop. Lim hit the ball to Marissa Cornelius, Muir's shortstop, who bounced the ball on the throw to home. The errant throw brought in two runners and allowed Kiwanis to tie the game at three before O'Leary ended the inning with two straight strikeouts.

"There were too many hit batters and too many walks, but she battled," Heurkins said of O'Leary, who finished the game with 11 strikeouts but issued seven walks and hit five batters. "Our defense let her down a few times, but for the most part she hung in there."

The bats were silent for the rest of the game until Kiwanis' big fifth inning. O'Leary started the frame with two straight walks and Lim drove home another run with a single. Another Muir error loaded the bases and two more runs scored after Jackie Villasenior was walked and Adela Alatraca singled with the bases loaded to give Kiwanis a 6-3 lead it wouldn't relinquish.

"It was a tough game, but we'll bounce back," Heurkins said.

Muir will play again Monday at Glorietta Park in the Tri-City Tournament loser's bracket against the Fire Belles of Jewel City. The game starts at 5 p.m.

Kiwanis plays Tuesday against the winner of the Monday game between the Diamond and Fusion teams of Burbank. The game is set for 6:30 p.m. at Scholl Canyon's No. 2 field.

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