Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
South City catcher Shelby Baxter has a throwing arm and isn't afraid to use it, firing behind runners constantly to keep the opposition's running game in check.
South City looked like it might wrap up things early in Wednesday’s 14-7 rivalry-game win over El Camino.
Sparked by first-inning home runs by Shelby Baxter and Leanna Cruz, the Warriors ran up an 8-1 score through the first two innings. After stranding the bases loaded in the first, South City sent nine batters to the plate amid a six-run second.
Then things got a little weird.
In the bottom of the third, South City junior Kassidy Lanchinebre injured her left knee and had to be carried from the field.
South City head coach Manny Cotla described the play on which Lanchinebre was injured in detail.
“She got called out on a strike three that got by the catcher. She was coming back to the dugout and I told her run because it was an open base,” Coach Cotla said. “I think when she made the turn to run she locked up. Her first reaction was … straight down to the ground. She said she heard a pop. … It’s a knee. I think she popped something in the back of knee.”
With the loss of Lanchinebre, the Warriors — having entered the game with nine players on their active roster — were forced to play the final four innings with just eight players.
With the advantage of a veritable power play, El Camino outscored South City 6-4 over the final four innings, but it was not enough as the Warriors got a gritty performance from starting pitcher Emily Cotla and a standout performance from Baxter at the plate and in the squat.
After Cotla’s streak of 12 complete games, dating back to last season, was snapped in South City’s April 19 non-league loss to Watsonville, the junior right-hander got another streak cooking with a complete-game victory Wednesday. With the win, Cotla improves her record to 8-5.
It wasn’t easy though. With South City in dire straits in the circle, Cotla soldiered through a pretty nasty cough and took several hits from an asthma inhaler over the course of the game.
According to Coach Cotla, because she was running a fever, he had a mind to call up a pitcher from the frosh-soph squad. However, South City’s frosh-soph pitcher, freshman Natty Cerecedes, had her wisdom teeth removed earlier in the week.
So, with Cotla’s gutsy performance, South City didn’t have to turn to its emergency pitcher — Baxter.
“They told me I might have to go in and pitch and I’m not a pitcher,” Baxter said.
Baxter may as well have pitched because she did pretty much everything else. She was on base all day long. The freshman leadoff hitter reached base in all five of her plate appearances, going 2 for 2 with three walks while scoring four times.
Behind the plate, Baxter was a game-changer as well. She gunned down one would-be base stealer in the third and was firing throws behind base runners to keep the Colts’ running game in check throughout.
“That’s probably like my favorite thing to do,” Baxter said. “My arm has gotten a lot better lately. It’s fun when you can get the out.”
Then in the fifth, Baxter turned in the play of the game by thoroughly preventing El Camino’s Sara Baros from crossing the plate on a potential home run. Baros his a booming fly to left field, but South City gunned her down at the plate on a relay from left fielder Kiyani Punzal to shortstop Cruz to Baxter, who completely sacrificed her body to block the dish while gathering the relay throw from Cruz to apply the tag on a bang-bang play.
El Camino rallied in the seventh, with Alicia Ortega leading off the frame by smoking a home run to left. After the Colts pushed another run across on an RBI single by Ashley Jimenez, Cotla buckled down to induce a pop-up behind the mound which she caught on the run to end it.
“It’s always fun playing against South City,” El Camino head coach Hazel Quintianilla said. “It’s a little bit more intense, of course. The first time we played them we didn’t do so well. [This] time, although we lost, we did a whole lot better. We played like a better team.”
With the win, second-place South City (5-2 in league, 11-6 overall) is currently a half game back of first-place Terra Nova in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division. The Tigers (5-1, 7-10) travel to Jefferson Thursday. South City has five games remaining on the Ocean Division schedule.
“This was a big one for us because it keeps us right in the hunt,” Coach Cotla said. “We’re actually just one game behind Terra Nova because we [lost to them earlier this season]. If we can play good and run the table, our last game is against them at Terra Nova. So, that can mean something.”