WATSONVILLE — Addison Sayers couldn’t explain how it happened.
“I think it was a trip,” the Aptos High senior third baseman quipped through a laugh. “Maybe it was the wind?”
Sayers unexpectedly tumbled to the dirt while running out a foul ball, but quickly rose to her feet, dusted herself off and started the Mariners’ game-sealing push with an RBI triple in the seventh inning of Thursday evening’s 7-3 Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League win over host St. Francis High.
“I was so flustered from my fall,” Sayers said. “I just saw the outside pitch and went with it.”
And the ball, like several throughout the day, carried high and deep into right field with the strong coastal winds underneath it, bringing home junior first baseman Martina Churchill to make it a three-run game.
Sayers rushed home to score on an RBI out from senior infielder Mariah Sanchez, and junior pitcher Julia Cano finished off her complete-game, two-hit performance to keep the Mariners rolling through SCCAL competition.
Aptos is now 3-0 in league action and will enter the heart of its first round of SCCAL play next week with a pair of home games against Soquel High and Scotts Valley High before traveling to San Lorenzo Valley High the following week — the latter two teams shared the league title last season.
“We’re starting off strong, and I think we’re going to do good,” Cano said. “We’re a solid team.”
Aptos gave Cano a 3-run lead in the top of the first inning, and the Mariners’ starting pitcher shook off a tough third inning to cruise the rest of the way.
She walked four, but struck out seven to help Aptos to .500 on the season (5-5).
“Mostly, the curve was working for me,” said Cano, who allowed only one earned run. “I stuck with that.”
St. Francis (3-6, 1-3) scored a run in the first, and added two in the third to tie it up at 3-all.
But Aptos senior catcher Ashley Del Colletti broke the tie in the fourth with an RBI single, sophomore outfielder Vanessa Segura scored two innings later on a groundout from sophomore outfielder Sunshyne Brechler and Sayers put the nail in the coffin with her triple.
After losing four straight just a few weeks ago, Aptos looks to be rounding into form.
“It’s been kind of a rollercoaster, but I think it’s going well, with league especially,” Sayers said. “We had a little bit of a rough preseason, but I think this is where we want to be in league.”
It’s a far cry from last year, that’s for sure.
Aptos lost eight straight to start the 2017 season, and finished just 6-6 in SCCAL play.
Despite returning 10 from last year’s 14-player roster, Cano said the Mariners’ success this season has been a bit surprising.
“Last year was a rough, bumpy road,” Cano said. “We just didn’t work as one and we just didn’t connect. In the beginning (of this season), I was a little down, but once we started practicing we looked solid…I’m excited about this season.”
St. Francis senior pitcher Shelby Velasco tossed a solid game, but lost another heartbreaker against a league-title contender. She allowed seven hits, a walk and no earned runs while striking out six.
“She’s a top-notch pitcher,” said St. Francis head coach Art Doten. “She’s doing a great job keeping us in games. We just got to put in some runs for her.”
Five errors, most occurring on fly balls taking unpredictable routes into the outfield because of the wind, hampered the Sharks’ chances of fighting their way back into the SCCAL title race.
Dotten wasn’t willing to blame the errors on the blowy conditions.
“The balls should’ve been caught,” Doten said. “This is our home field. It shouldn’t be the sun. It shouldn’t be the wind. We’ve played in worse.”
St. Francis senior third baseman Anna Noto doubled. Freshman Audrey Hernandez had the Sharks’ other hit.
Del Colletti had three hits, while Segura and Sanchez each had a pair of hits. Sanchez had three RBIs for Aptos, which has won three of its last four and will play in the Watsonville High tournament on Saturday.
“There’s a couple of teams in our league in that tournament, so hopefully we get a glimpse of what’s ahead for the rest of our season and just keep winning,” Sayers said.
St. Francis will also play in the Watsonville tournament with hopes of getting back on track after Thursday’s loss.
“They’re still learning,” Doten said. “Right now, for us, it’s mostly little mental mistakes here and there, not physical.”