The two-time defending Academic Athletic Association softball champions show no signs of letting up anytime soon.
That much was evident after Lowell’s 16-1, five-inning mercy-rule win over Lincoln on Thursday. The Cardinals (11-2, 9-0 AAA) outhit the Mustangs 20-4 in another dominating performance.
Vanessa Lee (three runs scored, two RBIs) and Marisa Lee finished with four hits each, Jena Lacayo had three hits and three RBIs while also pitching three innings of shutout relief, and G.G. Gunther hit an inside-the-park home run in the top of the third inning for the Cardinals, whose closest game in league play this season was a 6-3 decision over Balboa on March 12. Nicole Herrmann drove in the lone run (5-10, 4-5) for Lincoln.
In a season of numerous lopsided league wins, exactly how does Cardinals coach Sascha Ray keep her players on their toes? By making practice fun.
“We do something different in practice almost every day,” Ray said. “It’s got to be that way because softball is such an easy sport to fall back on and smell the daisies. Our girls actually get disappointed if we don’t practice.”
Lowell senior pitcher Majenta Strongheart, who started Thursday’s game and went the first two innings while also driving in two runs, echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“It’s great to have a bunch of teammates who always want to come out to practice and improve,” Strongheart said.
“That’s what it’s all about. We love coming out to the field everyday because that’s when it’s our time to shine.”
Even in the midst of a blowout victory, Ray was coaching up her players. After Lowell had just scored four runs in the top of the fourth inning to take an 11-1 lead, Ray was seen in the dugout giving advice to her standout leadoff hitter, Kelly Wong.
“It’s those little details that can make a big difference,” Ray said.
Even though the Cardinals have been flat-out dominant this season, last year’s team was even more of a powerhouse unit.
“We never went beyond five innings due to the mercy rule except for one game, and that was in the [AAA] championship game against Washington,” Ray said.
Ray said the senior leadership from a player like Strongheart has proved vital to the team’s success. Strongheart, who started playing softball at age 6, has started every game this season. Not overpowering by any means, Strongheart utilizes a fastball, change-up and riseball to keep hitters off balance.
“We’re not as dominant as we were last year, so it would mean that much more if we could win the championship for the third year in a row,” Strongheart said.