LA MIRADA, Calif. – With wet weather on the horizon creating scheduling changes to the 2017 NAIA SoCal Classic, Menlo College Softball treated the opening day of action like it was the middle of summer. The bats were on fire for the Oaks as they put up 20 runs on the board in their first two games action, leading to a pair of victories in the tournament. Game one featured a five-inning victory over Embry-Riddle, and Game two featured a much closer contest that was held together by solid bullpen work. All things told, it was a successful way to start the three-day tournament for Menlo, improving their record to 8-3 on the young season.
The offense for Menlo got started about as quickly as it could have possibly done in the opener of the tournament against Embry-Riddle. Five Menlo runs came across in the first, and five more came across in the second. Starting with the first rally, Natalie Dorsey got it all started with a base on balls. Bryce Etzler hit third in the lineup and she singled to the right side, putting two runners aboard. After a strikeout, Keeley Hernandez started off her fantastic evening of softball with a two-run single, putting the first runs of the game on the board. Ariana Belarde singled to right field, putting runners on the corners. Menlo then used some shiftiness on the base paths as Belarde stole second, and Hernandez came in on the throw to second. The next two batters in the inning would walk like Dorsey did, and the final walk featured a wild pitch that scored Belarde. Five runs in, and the Oaks were just getting warmed up.
Morgan Zimmerman led off the second for the Oaks, the lone batter not to hit in the first inning. She did what Dorsey did in leading off the first: walk. Dorsey reached base via an error, and after a Cassie Grana walk, the bases were loaded with nobody out. The free passes kept on rolling as Etzler drew a walk that scored Zimmerman, pushing the Oaks lead to six. Brooke Menesini flied out to center, but it was a sacrifice fly after Dorsey scored from third. Hernandez struck once again with a single to center, scoring Grana and giving the Oaks a 8-0 lead. Nine would be reached two batters later when Brooke Shigematsu reach base on an error by the Embry-Riddle third baseman. Zimmerman got to hit again in the inning, and she did more damage with a single to the left side of the infield, scoring the tenth run of the game for Menlo and giving them plenty of comfort.
It was a two-pitcher affair for the Oaks in Game one: Victoria Cervantes got the start and Kris McIntrye came in relief. Cervantes was solid in her three innings of work, allowing three hits and one run with one strikeout. McIntrye did not allow an earned run during her two innings of work, scattering two hits and three walks in between. As mentioned in the opening, Hernandez began a stellar day at the plate in Game one, going 3-3 with 2 runs and 5 RBI. She added a two-run double in the third while Dorsey homered in the fourth, and Menlo would cruise to a 14-3 win in the tournament opener, with one more on the way.
Game two of the evening for Menlo College did not feature quite as many fireworks as the initial game produced, but the bats came alive at just the right time. Sarah Reyes got the start for the Oaks, and she allowed runs in each of the first three innings of the game, though the first two innings were not much to her fault. A run scored in the first on a two-out error, and another unearned scored in the second on a sacrifice fly that was set up by a throwing error. So while 3.1 innings from Reyes in the game with 3 runs allowed might not look too impressive, just one earned run and three strikeouts suggests she still had stuff capable of winning the game. And win the game she would.
Down 2-0 going into the top of the third, the Menlo bats started heating up again and it all started thanks to some help given by the starting pitcher. Reyes led off the inning with a single to right field, and Natalie Dorsey walked, putting the tying runs on base. Both runners moved on a wild pitch, and Reyes came in on a fielder's choice from Keeley Hernandez. With the deficit cut in half, Brooke Menesini made sure there was a deficit no longer, singling through the left side to tie the game. Her fellow Brooke, Brooke Shigematsu, singled up the middle to score Hernandez and suddenly Menlo was out in front. Ariana Belarde would reach on a fielder's choice as well behind Shigematsu, and a throwing error on the play scored Menesini all the way from second. The four-run rally in the top of the inning put Menlo up 4-2.
Two big insurance runs were given courtesy of McKenna Vega in the top of the fifth inning, singling home Menesini and Belarde with two outs in the inning. While it turned out Menlo did not need those runs, they were no doubt helpful to Jordan Kennedy, who came in relief of Reyes and shutout Marymount over the final 3.2 innings of the contest. She allowed just three hits and did not walk a batter during her time on the mound, closing out the 6-3 win for Menlo and securing a perfect 2-0 start to the tournament.
Three games are on tap for Menlo in day two of the 2017 NAIA SoCal Classic, with Menlo beginning play at 12:00 PM against the College of Idaho. Menlo will also square off against the University of British Columbia and Northwest Christian on Thursday evening.