Softball: Emperors edge out Monarchs in late innings
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
EXETER – It was a game within a game last Friday as the Exeter Monarchs hosted the Dinuba Emperors in their last regular season contest. Exeter’s Brooklyn Blackmon and Dinuba’s Kirsten Martinez were tied with league leading 16 wins. It seemed as if extra innings were going to be needed to decide the outcome. That was before back-to-back hits in the top of the seventh inning gave the Emperors to the 1-0 victory.
“They just got two hits and that is what did it for them,” Exeter head coach Karen Zeibak said. “I am just proud of my girls they worked hard.”
Scoreless entering the seventh inning both pitchers were locked in a battle of skill. Unfortunately for the Monarchs (23-6, 5-5) it was their freshman who faltered first. Blackmon let go of a double to left-center field by the Emperors’ second batter which set them up in scoring position. It was the first time since the fifth inning Dinuba had a base runner that far. A subsequent single up the middle brought home the winning run.
Only down one with three outs to go the Exeter coaching staff instructed their hitters to drive the ball. In the hopes of getting a couple long base hits.
The Monarchs answered with a two-out rally. A single down the first base line put Haylee McFall on. Then an error by the Dinuba short stop allowed Zoie Belk to reach safely. With two runners on Kayla Medrano stepped up to the plate. She pulled a pitch toward the third baseman who made a clean play tagging McFall for the final out.
“The ball just wasn’t falling today,” Zeibak said. “They had great contact, but it was always right at someone.”
Dinuba was able to neutralize one of the Monarch’s biggest offensive threats in Corinne Acosta. She only went 1-3. Her only hit being a single. It is the first time since Exeter’s loss to Selma that she has batted below .500 for a game.
Blackmon was more on point with her pitches than any other time this season. She faced 26 Dinuba batters and only gave up five hits. Two of those hits happened to be for doubles. The three batters she struck out in the game gave her 126 for the year. That is second in the Central Sequoia League behind Central Valleys Christian’s Rylie Atherton who has 156.
“Look at her she is a freshman and she only gave up one run, she did great,” Zeibak said.
Blackmon however, did not take on the Emperors single handily. The defense behind her made some plays as well. In the fifth inning Kate Coulter snagged a ball going to her right and threw out the Dinuba base runner by half a step.
Now the Monarchs go after their ultimate goal. Their third place finish was good enough to give them the third seed in the Division IV playoffs. They will wait to face the winner of the sixth seeded Washington Union Panthers (16-9-1, 7-3) and eleventh seeded Chavez Titans (7-15, 4-8) on Friday.