The Conqs and Braves typically face each other in the final week of the regular season across many sports. This spring season was no different, and the effects were felt across the Lompoc Valley.
On Wednesday, Lompoc's baseball team squeezed out a 3-1 win over Cabrillo to clinch the fourth-and-final playoff spot out of the Los Padres League. The day before, Lompoc took down Cabrillo 4-3 in eight innings.
In the Wednesday game, Jesse Gasca led the Braves with two RBIs while Jeffrey Ray had two hits and on RBI. Freshman Oscar Rojas threw a complete game, allowing just one hit over seven innings
But there was also some drama on the softball field this week, starting with Tuesday's game between the Conqs and the Braves.
The festivities started with Lompoc High softball’s senior class getting honored before the game in their last regular season home tilt — with city nemesis Cabrillo in the opposite dugout.
The day ended with the Braves accomplishing their revenge on a Conquistadores team that embarrassed them by 10 runs back in April, as a Sierra Preston RBI in the bottom of the fifth inning lifted Lompoc to the 3-2 home victory on Tuesday.
The win not only was redemption for a Braves team that got trounced 10-0 by these same Conquistadores on April 6 at CHS, but it gave Lompoc (12-9, 9-4 in the Los Padres League) its season-best sixth consecutive win.
And who was the winning pitcher on the mound once again for the red-hot Braves?
That would be Lauren Wade, who was one of the seniors being honored before the game and just 24 hours earlier was recognized for her brave fight against the life-threatening brain disease Cavernous Hemangioma Malformations by the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table at Giavanni’s Pizzeria in Orcutt.
Wade, who has been the Braves’ winning pitcher in all six victories, said she couldn’t wait to see her city rival again on the softball diamond.
“I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time,” Wade said. “It was a very challenging game but we came through. Being able to be out here is a blessing. Getting revenge felt amazing — especially on senior day.”
The right-hander immediately went after Cabrillo, striking out the lead-off batter. Wade, though, surrendered a double to Cabrillo’s Brooklyn Gregory who smashed the first hit of the game.
Cabrillo then went on to win its season finale, beating Orcutt Academy 10-0 to finish in fourth place at 9-5 in league.
But Wade’s right arm plus a cohesive Braves’ defense limited a potential scoring outburst from a Conqs team that has poured 10 or more runs eight times this season.
Lompoc got on the board early with Mariah Villalobos blasting a base hit that drove in senior Cheyenne Marmolejo, making it 1-0. Cabrillo, though, tied things up with Kaylee Smalling ripping a triple toward left field, scoring Jordan Spice in the process. Gregory then broke the tie with her sacrifice fly ball to right field, driving Smalling home and giving CHS the 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth.
But then, Jayden Andrade hit the ball toward left field that brought Alana Elizondo home. Then Preston’s ground ball double broke the 2-2 tie and provided the difference for LHS.
“I think it was an inside pitch. I just made contact with the ball,” Preston said when describing her hit.
Cabrillo head coach Adrian Abayari kept his message short and simple to his team after the game.
“The message is 'you’ve got to want it,'” Abayari said. “The coaches are out there to put you in a position to make plays and win. When you prepare and the opportunity presents itself and you don’t put yourself in a position to win and we take “me-swings” instead of the “we-swings,” then you defeat the purpose of the word team.”
Abayari has been dealing with a battered Conqs team, as injuries have surfaced during Cabrillo’s three-game slide.
“We’ve been limping in the last four to five games. But that’s still no excuse to play the way we played here,” Abayari said. “Our hitting, by far, was the worst performance I’ve seen all year. Got to give it to Lompoc for putting the pressure on us and getting the early lead, plus get a good crowd to support them. But when the girls just come here to play a game as opposed to play and win, there’s a difference. Hopefully that doesn’t carry over in the next couple weeks going toward CIF.”
Cabrillo shared the LPL top spot with Templeton just a month ago. The top four teams in the LPL are automatic qualifiers in the CIF Southern Section playoffs, but the Conqs might be facing a coin flip scenario to determine if they get a home game in the Division 5 playoffs, with brackets to be unveiled on Monday.
Cabrillo's baseball team isn't guaranteed a playoff spot, but could land one of the few open at-large berths available. Those baseball brackets will be also released on Monday.