Chamberlain prevails in defensive battle with Steinbrenner
TAMPA – Nothing came easy for Chamberlain and Steinbrenner on offense Thursday night.
Bunts were scooped up. Short hoppers were smothered. Flyballs were snagged.
The regular-season finale for both teams was highlighted by defensive gems.
Manufacturing runs took work. The Chiefs did enough right away, scoring twice in the first inning and holding on in a 2-1 victory.
“Gabby Vallee controlled the circle, and we played tremendous defense,” Chamberlain coach Bobby Diez said. “It’s a big game. It was Steinbrenner’s senior night. We stepped up.”
The Chiefs’ Hope Hernandez, a Troy signee, led off the game with a single. She moved to second on sacrifice bunt by Alex Quinonez, then to third on a single by Maddie Lewis and scored on a fielder’s choice. Quinonez scored on a single by Reganne McCarl for a 2-0 lead.
Hernandez, a shortstop, helped the lead stick by making spectacular plays on sure base hits. The biggest one came in the fifth inning when she seemingly popped out of nowhere to chase down a ball headed for the gap and whipped it to first for final out of the inning.
Teammate Alex Suarez went all out, too, diving to snare softballs in centerfield.
“I really think our defense won the game,” Hernandez said. “It was defense vs. defense out there.”
The fielding exploits were not limited to Chamberlain (21-3). The Warriors (17-4) turned in three double plays to get out of jams.
In the third inning, Steinbrenner’s Lexi Spencer led off by reaching on an error. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jen Bryant, stole third and scored on Karsyn Barnes’ single to cut it to 2-1.
The Warriors could not get any closer.
Vallee and the defense made sure of it. The junior pitcher retired 11 of the final 12 batters she faced.
“Our regular season is finished and now we focus,” Diez said. “Our goal is to win seven more games.”