Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy softball continues terrific start

LA CAÑADA — Potent play from its pitching and defense lifted the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy softball team to a nonleague win over visiting Alverno on Wednesday afternoon.

The Tologs, winners of six of seven to start the season, received a stellar pitching performance from Hannah Zika, who went the distance, giving up just four hits and one walk, while striking out five batters to lead Flintridge Sacred Heart to a 4-0 home victory over the Jaguars.

Zika was aided by the defense behind her that didn’t commit an error and allowed only one Alverno runner into scoring position.

“I wanted to pump up my team to not make mental errors and throw pitches I needed to make,” said Zika, who also helped her own cause with a run batted in. “Once they make the plays, they don’t make mental errors and it helps me a lot.”

Alverno’s defense and particularly Zika’s counterpart, Hailey Saurenman, matched the good play in a one-run affair through five innings, but a pair of costly errors by the Jaguars sparked a three-run sixth inning for Flintridge Sacred Heart before Zika closed it out and clinched the win.

The three-spot in the sixth inning was the game’s first scoring since Olivia Fitzpatrick put the Tologs (6-1) on the scoreboard with a single to shallow center that scored Zika and proved to be enough for her from the mound.

“We play better when we’re ahead,” said Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Kirk Nishiyama, who guided the Tologs to an 11-12-1 record last season. “We’re more confident and are more aggressive.”

“Hannah was hitting spots and keeping batters off-balance,” he said of his junior pitcher. “When you’re throwing strikes, the defense is behind you. She’s been big for us all season and is one of the reasons for our early success.”

Both Zika and Saurenman were hitting their marks, as they combined to give up a total of five hits from the second inning until the fifth. Flintridge Sacred Heart, however, was able to get two runners on base in the second, third and fifth innings, but to no avail. The Tologs left nine runners on base in the game.

Alverno (0-1), in its season opener, managed a pair of singles in the sixth inning, the first hit off Zika since the first inning and the lone occasion the Jaguars had a runner in scoring position. A grounder to third base ended the rally, though, and the 1-0 margin held up going into the bottom of the sixth.

With two out in the sixth inning, Flintridge Sacred Heart leadoff hitter Cayley Frank’s sharply hit ball to third base wasn’t secured, allowing Lali Ortiz to score from second base and Frank taking her place. Frank scored on Rachel Majich’s fly ball to left field that was misplayed, increasing FSHA’s lead to 3-0. Majich raced around the bases to third and the effort was rewarded with Zika’s single that capped off the scoring, and gave the hurler more than she needed in the seventh.

Saurenman picked up the loss in her six innings of work, despite just one earned run.

“We put the ball in play and put the pressure on their defense,” Nishiyama said.

Fitzpatrick collected two hits, with Frank, Vanessa Ocon and Zika each picking up one apiece for the Tologs, who registered all of their runs with two outs.

The Tologs will begin the tough test that is the Mission League Tuesday at Harvard-Westlake.

“We’re playing hard, making the routine plays, not making mistakes and getting good pitching,” Nishiyama said. “That’s the formula for success. The Mission League is a different story, but I told the girls that they’ve taken a positive step.”

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