By Ed PiperGrace Young used a new grip on her change-up in hurling a three-hit shutout and the Lady Knights offense exploded for four runs in the fifth inning as Bishop’s handed visiting Holtville a clear 5-0 defeat and a long bus ride home in the first round of the CIF Division IV playoffs May 22.
Bishop’s (21-1) then shellacked High Tech High San Diego, 11-1, in the second round May 24.
The Lady Knights will play Santa Fe Christian in the semifinals Thursday, May 29, at the Santee Sportsplex at 1 p.m.
Young, a sophomore righty, struck out seven in the first six innings of the win over Holtville, and could have been looking at a two-hitter if Ana Karen Rivera’s drive down the third base line hadn’t gotten by third baseman Sabrina Moreno.
But Moreno had the last word, lofting a sacrifice fly to centerfield to bring home Emma Lewis in the fifth inning to give the Lady Knights a 2-0 lead and some breathing room in a tight one-run thriller. Moreno also hit two home runs in the second round win over High Tech High.
After shortstop Aida Ayala lined out for the second out in the inning, Shakira “Shak” Trejo smashed a single to left that was then misplayed by the Vikings’ Karen Ponce, scoring not only Livy Schiele from third base but also Sabrina Straus from second.
Sophia Acker then followed with a ground-rule double that went far out of play in left field, driving in Shak for a 5-0 lead and basically sealing Holtville’s fate.
“I’d popped up the first two times at bat, so I just wanted to hit the ball on the ground to get the win for the team,” said a genial Moreno after the victory.
About underclassman Young’s artistry in the pitcher’s circle, the junior captain said, “Grace has come so far this season. She has matured so much.” The Lady Knights’ only loss this season came in the final regular season game to Horizon, which made the two teams (both 7-1) co-champions of the Coastal League.
Trejo ably handled Young from behind the plate, saying their strategy had been to keep the ball outside and mix in the change of pace. Young’s new grip, which she was trying out during the game, consists of curling her index finger into a “C” shape while keeping the other fingers in the grip the same. The ball comes off the hand at a slower speed with the same arm motion as a fastball, fooling the batter.
“It’s a looser grip,” demonstrated Young. She has been pitching for seven years. She says she’s attracted to pitching because “I like being in control of the game. If the team is having a bad game, you can pick them up with your pitching.”
The sophomore, who likes science and would like to go into aerospace engineering, was part of a team that designed a project submitted by the Youth Space Institute of the San Diego Science Alliance. She was going to miss one of her two tap dance recitals because of the morning playoff game against High Tech High.
A smiling Trejo said of her two-RBI hit in the fifth to give the Lady Knights a 4-0 edge, “After my first two at-bats, I was frustrated (at getting out both times). I knew I had to do something.” She lined the first pitch into left field.
“We’re just excited to get this started,” said head coach Art Schiele before the game. His team quickly erased memories of last year’s early exit in the playoffs, and now potentially stands only one game from the championship.
Second baseman Straus collided with rightfielder Madeleine Armstrong as they went for Ponce’s fly in the top of the second inning. Armstrong appeared to balance the ball on her chest as both fielders fell to the ground, but the home plate umpire ruled that the ball hit the ground, loading the bases.
Straus was shaken up on the play, injuring her left shoulder in running into her much bigger teammate, who also practices martial arts. After a timeout, she stayed in the game and after being pinch-hit for in one plate appearance, she came back to draw a base on balls and steal second to fuel the Lady Knights’ fifth-inning barrage.