Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Aragon third baseman Sophia Cerreta fields a grounder during the Dons’ 5-1 win over Burlingame, the first of the season for the Dons.
Both the Burlingame and Aragon softball teams went into Tuesday’s matchup in San Mateo in search of their initial Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division wins of the season.
Burlingame was coming off having a perfect game thrown against it by Carlmont standout Rebecca Faulkner last Thursday, while Aragon had slowly been putting everything together the last couple of weeks.
When the dust settled, the Dons used strong defense and clutch pitching to pull out a 5-1 win over the Panthers for their first league win of the year.
“The past three games have been equally great,” said Aragon’s first-year coach Christie McCoy-Hjelm, a 1993 Aragon graduate and in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. “It’s definitely rebuilding (this season). We’re really concentrating on our core fundamentals — defense and pitching.”
Both were on display Tuesday for Aragon (1-5 PAL Bay, 3-11 overall). Defensively, the Dons committed only one error while making most of the rest of the defensive plays look routine.
Which was anything but. Burlingame (0-5, 4-11) hit a lot of balls right on the screws — but they always seemed to find the glove of an Aragon defender.
“Not much to say,” said Burlingame coach Doug McKeever. “Right now we’re just struggling.”
The Panthers started strong, ending their six-inning scoreless streak in the top of the first when Amelia Milne took a 3-2 pitch from Aragon pitcher Jessica Doss and sent a tower shot over the fence in center field for a 1-0 Burlingame lead.
“The bomb in the first inning was a good sign,” McKeever said. “But we need to be more patient (at the plate).”
That pitch to Milne was one of the few mistakes Doss made, as she pitched a complete game in picking up the win, scattering five hits in the process.
Doss did run into a trouble a few times, but managed to wiggle off the hook in both instances. In the third inning, Burlingame got back-to-back hits from Rachel Topper and Haley Crowell, but a fielder’s choice for an out ended the threat.
In the top of the sixth, the Panthers hit Doss hard. Crowell’s bid for extra bases died in the glove of freshman center fielder Jen Horita, who streaked into the gap to chase down Crowell’s drive. Milne followed with a single and Kat Marcan came up with a blast to the fence in left-center field, but was held to only a single when Milne had to hold up to make sure the ball wasn’t caught.
Doss buckled down, however, and got a popout to third for the second out and then a line drive to Horita in center field ended the inning.
“[Doss is] definitely a work in progress,” McCoy-Hjelm said. “She’s beginning to take ownership of the pitcher’s circle. She’s working hard to keep ahead of the game.”
A baserunning blunder in the bottom of the first inning shut down a potential Aragon rally, but the Dons put things together in taking the lead for good with two runs in the bottom of the second. Soraya Valdez-Frick, the Dons’ freshman shortstop, started the uprising when she sent a Sara Slavsky offering into the right-center field gap. The Burlingame right fielder went a long way into the alley and got her glove on it, but couldn’t squeeze it. It popped out of her glove and Valdez-Frick was standing on second with a leadoff double. Sophia Cerreta followed and reached on an infield hit, with Valdez-Frick going to third. Nicole Briedis came up and hit a ground ball to second, with Valdez-Frick beating the throw to the plate to tie the score at 1, with Cerreta taking third on the play. Brianna Reynolds then put the Dons ahead to stay with a sacrifice fly to center that plated Cerreta.
Aragon doubled its score in the bottom of the third inning. Jen Horita used her speed to beat out an infield hit to lead off the inning. Lila Dobroff followed and hit a grounder to second base. The second baseman appeared to tag Horita as she went by and then threw to first for what looked to be a double play, but the field umpire ruled Horita evaded the tag and wound up at third with one out.
Following a line drive for the second out, Burlingame looked like it might get out of the inning unscathed when Nicole Horita hit a routine grounder to second. But the throw to first got past the first baseman, Nicole Horita was safe and Jen Horita came home with Aragon’s third run of the game.
Nicole Horita would come all the around to score when Valdez-Frick followed with an RBI double to the left-center field gap to put Aragon up 4-1.
The Dons rounded out the scoring in the bottom of the fifth. Nicole Horita led off the inning with a double and following a pair of groundouts, Briedis drove in the final run of the game with a single to right.
“We’ve had lots and lots of positive progression (since the season started),” McCoy-Hjelm said. “Was today perfect? Absolutely not. But we’ll highlight the positives and attack the negatives.”