With McKenna Martin no longer roaming the Lompoc High softball dugout after reportedly parting ways with the program, the Braves have stayed in the CIF Southern Section playoff race, this time ousting Orcutt Academy 9-3 on Friday at home.
Martin, who just last year won a CIF Southern Section Division 5 title as the head coach of the Braves, hasn’t been with the softball team during the entire week. One interim assistant coach Mark Branson chose not to elaborate on Martin’s situation.
“I really don’t want to make too many comments about that. Everything else now comes through the principal,” Branson said.
The Braves (9-10, 6-4 in the Los Padres League) have now won three in a row to stay in the tight postseason chase. It’s the second time this season the diamond Braves have gone on a three-game winning streak.
And this time, Lompoc turned a close 2-2 battle into a seven-run explosion in the bottom of the sixth inning to seal the win.
The inning started with lead-off hitter Cheyenne Marmolejo executing a bunt, then advancing to second on a passed ball. Jayden Andrade then blasted a double toward center field, scoring two of her teammates in the process to break the tie. Sierra Preston followed with her base hit RBI that made it 5-2. Kendel Martin helped solidify the inning with her single to left field that drove two more runners home.
Branson and the interim staff, which also comprises of some of the junior varsity assistants, stressed consistency at the plate before taking their swings at the Spartans (4-17, 1-9 in the LPL).
“We’ve talked about having good at-bats before the game. We were playing with enough energy and we ended up having a nice at-bat from Kendal. From there, we put some hits together,” Branson said.
He added that he’s noticing a less stressed Lompoc team when it comes to getting timely hits.
“I think we’re playing a lot more relaxed. The girls understand their roles and we’ve scored some runs in the last three games,” Branson said.
Orcutt Academy started fast, as the Spartans loaded the bases in the top of the first inning with just one out. Maddi Van Musen-Barger pounded a base hit to center field that brought one teammate home and the early 1-0 lead.
After going scoreless in the second inning, the Spartans came right back with Van Musen-Barger again hitting a base hit to center field, bringing Daisy Esparanza home and tying it at 2-2.
The Orcutt Academy defense kept the Braves in check for the next three innings from a scoring standpoint before its collapse in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Alana Elizondo, Heidi Cardenas and Michelle Hill were the other Braves who had a hit in the sunny but windy contest, with gusts picking up toward the start of the sixth inning.
Lompoc is currently in fourth place in the LPL standings behind Santa Ynez, Cabrillo and league leader Templeton. The Braves close out the year with three of four road trips, beginning first with the visit to Nipomo on Tuesday.
Branson said that this team, despite witnessing the change in leadership late in the year, has remained steadfast and eyeing a postseason bid.
“I can see it in their eyes. They can feel it,” Branson said. “We started our playoff run two games ago. We approach every game each game independently and like a playoff game. That’s how we’re going to play the rest of the season.”
Cabrillo 8, Nipomo 0
Cabrillo's Noah Randolph carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before the Titans broke up his momentum in the Conquistadores' eight-run romp at NHS on Friday.
Randolph threw a complete game and took the win on the mound, striking out seven batters and allowing just the one hit.
"Noah pitched a great game. He kept them off balanced," CHS head coach Jon Osborne said. "In the LPL, it's hard to get a shut out, but I'm glad we did that."
Offensively, Cameron Binnebose finished with three hits. Matt Gonzalez, Graham Richards and Jessie Navarro each had two hits.