The Interstate 8 collegiate softball battle took its second edition to Alcala Park on the campus of USD as the San Diego State Aztecs were victorious over their in-city rival, the USD Toreros, 4-3. In the first game of this matchup, at San Diego State in mid-February, the Aztecs won in a defensive battle 3-1.
Arkansas sophomore transfer pitcher Allie Light (2-1, 12 appearances) started the game for the Aztecs, and redshirt sophomore Courtney Rose (4-5, 17 appearances) started in the circle for USD.
San Diego State had a baserunner on in the top of the first, but freshman catcher Arisa Tovar (Olympian High) threw out Jillian Celis with a bullet on a stolen base attempt to thwart any possible rally. USD threatened in the bottom of the second inning after a walk and a Clareese Santiago double. But Celis makes a great play on a line shot by Tovar to get the third out of the frame. San Diego State returns the favor in the bottom of the third inning as Bella Espinoza threw out Izzy Owen at the plate for the third out, which kept the game scoreless through the first three innings.
USD almost broke through in the bottom of the fifth inning as Tovar walked, and Alexia Torculas laid down a perfect bunt that allowed pinch-runner Faith Hernandez to move to third base. However, the Aztec defense stiffened as Izzy Owen tried a suicide squeeze, but the Aztecs got the out at home and then nailed Owen as she tried to get to second base on the play.
The Aztecs finally broke through in the top of the sixth inning. After a bunt base hit by Espinoza, a bad hop error off the bat of Mac Barbara allowed Espinoza to get to third base. A base hit by Alexa Schultz popped out of right fielder KK Emanuelli’s glove on a diving attempt allowed SDSU to score.
USD battled back with three in the bottom of the sixth as Joecella Roberts singles, and Noelle Hee was hit by a pitch. Coach Stacey Nuveman brought in lefty DeeDee Hernandez to end the threat. However, both runners stole a base and a wild pitch by Hernandez plates one run for the Toreros. A double off the glove of center fielder Nicole Seiss by Clareese Santiago scored pinch-runner Savannah Alarcon, and a throwing error on the play allowed Santiago to come all the way home to score.
Courtney Rose was dominant in the circle through the first five innings as she held the Aztecs to only one base hit while striking out six batters.
But the Aztecs were able to figure her out for one run in the sixth and three more in the seventh inning. A base hit by Shay Whatman and an error of the bat of Jessica Cordola put two on the bases. A walk to Nicole Seiss loaded the bases for SDSU. Two ground ball outs plated a run for the Aztecs, making it a 3-2 game in favor of USD. The next batter, Mac Barbara, came through for the Aztecs with a two-RBI double off the left-field fence to give SDSU a 4-3 lead. Aztec ace Maggie Balint entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning to send the Toreros down in order and earn the save. The Aztecs get the 4-3 victory on the road.
When asked what adjustments she made in the clutch seventh-inning at-bat, ” I took a deep breath, tuned out the noise, knew many outs there were in the situation, and just looked for pitch over the plate.” Mac Barbara said after the game.
Coach Nuveman spoke after the game. When asked about the late-inning comeback, she mentioned, “we have been in some close games and weren’t able to come back…and with league starting this week. We need to know that we have the ability to come back because we will be in a lot of close games,” Nuveman said. “This was a character-building game,” the head coach added with a smile.
When asked if she was surprised, USD pitched to .395 hitter Barbara in the seventh inning situation, “I wasn’t shocked, they had Mac’s number the first couple of bats, but a .400 hitter is going to come through more often than not,” Nuveman said.
Nuveman also added that “Every time we play USD, it’s a battle.” Today was no different.