‘Swing hard’ leads Lowell to section championship

The advice was simple, calmly delivered and to the point. And Lowell’s Sophia Chen wasted no time following it.

All throughout Friday’s San Francisco Section softball final, Cardinals softball coach Sascha Ray prodded her players with the mantra “swing hard.” With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tie game, she reiterated the direction to Chen, and the junior lined the first pitch she saw deep to right field for the winning hit in Lowell’s 13-12 victory at Lang Field. Chen made it all the way to second base before being mobbedby teammates celebrating their second straight title.

The Cardinals now face Oakland Section champion Oakland Tech in the TransBay Series beginning Friday back at Lang.

“Coach told me to swing hard and make contact, and it feels great right now,” said Chen, still holding the trophy 15 minutes after the win. “I jumped for joy when I saw it drop.”

After Katie Tom led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, Lincoln walked Rubye Chu and Samia Zuber — the Cardinals’ No. 3 and No. 4 hitters — to set up a force play at the plate. But it seemed highly unlikely Lowell (16-3) would denied at that point.

The Cardinals finished the day with 19 hits, with each player contributing at least one and seven finishing with two or more. Chen was 4-for-5, Chu went 2-for-4 with a home run and Zuber was 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs.

“As soon as she hit it I thought ‘that’s gone’ and I couldn’t stop running,” Chu said. “Sophia had been hitting all day and she did it again.”

Lincoln (14-4) nearly matched Lowell blow-for-blow, and led 11-7 after a six-run fourth inning. But Cardinals pitcher Alina Werth was able to steady herself. The sophomore held the Mustangs to just one run over the last three innings, retiring nine of the final 12 batters she faced.

“The girls really haven’t been on their heels all season and Lincoln gave us a great challenge,” Ray said. “This is a special group, and they came back swinging.”

Chioma Amaechi was 3-for-4 with a home run for the Mustangs, and was called out on a second homer on an appeal after she missed stepping on home plate in the third.

Catcher Monica Saint and first baseman Annabel Hertz added two hits each for Lincoln, which has reached the final for three straight years but has been unable to come away with the title.

“To play the way they did in an environment like this—I can’t ask for anything more,” Mustangs coach Kevin Grayson said. “I’m super-duper proud of them.”

melliser@examiner.com

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