Lowell High School softball picks up right where it left off

Willie Eashman/Special to The S.F. ExaminerLowell senior Michelle Willis delivered in the circle and at the plate during a victory against Lincoln in the AAA opener Monday.

Willie Eashman/Special to The S.F. ExaminerLowell senior Michelle Willis delivered in the circle and at the plate during a victory against Lincoln in the AAA opener Monday.

The Lowell High School softball team ended last year’s Academic Athletic Association season with a mercy-rule win over Washington and picked up right where it left off in its AAA opener against Lincoln on Monday.

The Cardinals scored seven runs in the first inning and 14 runs in the third en route to a 23-1 three-inning win over the Mustangs at West Sunset Playground.

Lowell (2-0, 1-0) had just nine hits, but worked 13 walks and took advantage of five Lincoln errors. Seven of Lowell’s hits were singles, but the Cardinals got some pop from junior second baseman and leadoff hitter Yun Li, who had two fly-ball doubles into center field and five RBIs.

“It was nice to see, because she’s such a tiny girl,” Lowell coach Sascha Ray said. “She’ll go out there and swing, but on defense, we have to know that there are two parts of the game.”

Ray wasn’t satisfied with the Cardinals’ defense, which committed two errors, one of which led to the Mustangs’ lone run.

“We put in the practice, but they don’t have it in the game yet,” Ray said. “A lot of it is lack of experience, but we made mistakes out here. I want the fundamentals down and for them to play with more confidence.”

The unearned run spoiled what would have been a shutout for pitcher Michelle Willis, who struck out four, walked none and allowed three hits, two of which didn’t leave the infield.

The senior, who was the winning pitcher in the AAA championship game against Washington last season, will need to carry much of the load on the rubber and as the No. 3 hitter. She went 1-for-2 at the plate and scored two runs against Lincoln on Monday, including a two-run single in the third inning.

“She’s going to have to get us there, because this year, we don’t have the same defense behind her,” Ray said. “Our defense doesn’t understand that yet, that we have a workhorse out here and we need a lot more help than we did last year.”

Not much went well for the Mustangs (0-1, 0-1) against the defending AAA champs, but they hit Willis hard in the final inning, including a fly-ball double into the right-field gap from Shirley Liang and two line-drive outs to the outfield.

“We can hit, but it’s just that we were a little shell-shocked early,” Lincoln coach Kevin Grayson said. “They jumped on us, they’re the defending champion and I think we were a little intimidated.”

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