VIDEO: No. 10 Charlotte survives scare

Ashley Gaitan (7) tries to avoid the tag from La Villa’s catcher during Charlotte’s 8-5 win on Thursday. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

The No. 10-ranked Charlotte Trojanettes had a scare in the bi-district playoff.

Charlotte (24-6) trailed the La Villa Lady Cardinals entering the bottom of the second inning and had to hold off a seventh-inning rally in an 8-5 win. La Villa had the tying run in the on-deck circle in the winner-take-all game.

The Trojanettes led 8-2 entering the seventh. After allowing a two-run and solo home run to consecutive batters, sophomore pitcher Ashley Gaitan rallied to strike out the final batter and slam the door on the Cardinals’ comeback bid.

“It caught me way off guard until I went over to my truck and talked to the umpire,” Charlotte Head Coach Shawn Vowell said. “He mentioned something about my pitcher running out of gas. She was hitting her corners early. 

“I probably kind of laxed a little bit because in the top of the seventh, they had seven, eight and nine [in their lineup] due up and they were a combined 0-for-6 with five strikeouts. … I can’t believe they’re a four-win team. If we play like this [in the area round], it’s gonna be an early exit for us.”

Gaitan would go on to pick up the win, allowing five runs on five hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. The right-hander was just one strikeout from tying her career-high.

“My girls are still there, no matter what,” Gaitan said. “I just have to take everything one pitch at a time.”

Angel Cruz puts the ball in play during Charlotte’s win over La Villa on Thursday. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

The fourth inning proved to be the difference for Charlotte. The Trojanettes picked up four runs on four hits in the inning, highlighted by a two-run double by Angel Cruz to open the scoring for the inning.

It was the only inning where Charlotte brought in multiple runs. They know they need more of that if they want to keep their playoff run going.

“Coach Vowell always tells us [to get] crooked numbers,” Gaitan said. “When we go into the dugout, he’s always telling us, ‘Crooked numbers. Get as many hits as you can.’ The hits are going to help us win and our defense is already there.”

Cruz, who batted eighth in the lineup, proved to be the offensive spark plug for Charlotte. The sophomore left fielder was 2-for-3 at the plate with a pair of RBIs, a team-high, in the win. It was her first taste of the playoffs after the season was cut short last year due to the pandemic.

The bottom three batters in the order went a combined 2-for-9 with two RBIs and a pair of runs scored.

“It feels good, knowing that we’re going to be able to go far with the girls we have and that we can count on them, no matter what,” Cruz said.

Charlotte will face the winner of the Ganado-Yorktown bi-district game scheduled for Friday.

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