The Saddleback softball team rallied to beat Riverside City College, 8-7, on Saturday in Riverside. The Gauchos scored seven runs in the sixth inning for the win.
Saddleback entered the game on Saturday needing a win in order to boost their playoff chances. The Gauchos picked a great time for their biggest inning of the year, scoring seven runs in the sixth inning to turn a 7-1 deficit into an 8-7 lead.
Saddleback took a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a sacrifice fly by Nelsa Delagente to get off to a good start. Things went downhill quickly as Riverside responded with five runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth to take a 7-1 lead.
The score remained the same until the top of the sixth inning when Saddleback made its move. The Gauchos sent 12 batters to the place, piecing together seven hits along with a walk and wild pitch. Reis Birkett started the inning with a double to right-center field to get Saddleback off to a good start. Following a groundout, Hope Manuszak then singled to put runners at the corners. After a meeting at the mound, Amanda Padilla singled through the left side to cut the deficit to 7-2. Delagente followed with a double to left-center field as the deficit was cut to 7-3.
Riverside then made a pitching change in an attempt to slow the momentum. It didn't work, as Laura Mendez came on and walked Emma Gastelum to load the bases. The next batter was Summer Smith, who hit a short pop-up between the catcher and pitcher that neither defender could get to, allowing Padilla to score and leaving the bases loaded.
With the score now 7-4, Drew Moore singled to left field to cut the deficit to 7-5, with still only one out in the inning and the bases loaded. Mendez then followed with a wild pitch, allowing Gastelum to score and the deficit was down to one. Mendez finally was able to get the second out of the inning when Carley Buonarigo flied to left field, setting up a bases-loaded with two outs situation. Birkett then stepped to the plate for the second in the inning and delivered a two-run double as the Gauchos took an 8-7 lead, completing the comeback.
Birkett finished 3-for-4 with two RBI in the game. She now leads the Gauchos in batting average (.412), home runs (4), RBI (27), doubles (11), on-base percentage (.443) and slugging percentage (.649) for the year.
Saddleback completes the regular season this week with a home game against Cypress on Monday and a road game at Santa Ana on Wednesday. The Gauchos are currently alone in third place in the Orange Empire Conference standings, one game in from of Santa Ana. Saddleback and Cypress will throw out the first pitch on Monday at 3:00 PM at Trani Field.