No. 11 Charlotte’s late push secures foothold of 31-2A

Jessalyn Sanchez hammers a double to center field during Charlotte’s 12-7 win over Three Rivers on Thursday, April 1. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

The No. 11-ranked Charlotte Trojanettes used a big sixth inning to propel them to a commanding two-game lead in District 31-2A.

Charlotte (17-4, 4-0) beat the Three Rivers Bulldogs 12-7 on Thursday night. The Trojanettes batted around in the bottom of the sixth to score five runs and extend their lead to six before Three Rivers added a run in the seventh. Gabby Mata, Stephanie Ramos, Jenna Dillard and Ariella Cumpian each delivered RBIs in the inning.

That explosive sixth inning helped sophomore pitcher Ashley Gaitan allow just one run in the final frame to seal the win.

“I was definitely on my toes and I was nervous [before the sixth],” Gaitan said. “But my girls, they brought home five runs and that had me not worried.”

Gaitan would go the distance in the circle, allowing seven runs on 10 hits and six walks with seven strikeouts to her name to pick up the win. She also picked up an RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning.

Gaitan dealt with some trouble early on. She allowed four batters to reach in the first three innings, but she knew her defense would be behind her when she needed it. That defense helped cut down three baserunners, including an unconventional 5-4-5 double play started by Jessalyn Sanchez in the second inning.

Ashley Gaitan winds up to pitch in Charlotte’s 12-7 win over Three Rivers on Thursday, April 1. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

Gaitan also worked to strand five runners in Friday’s win.

“The thing that helps me calm down … is my defense,” Gaitan said. “I know no matter what, if I’m struggling, the girls are gonna pick me up whether it’s hitting or getting the outs I can’t. If I can’t pitch a curveball or a screwball … I know my defense will stop a solid hit.”

Spurring Charlotte’s offensive performance was Sanchez. She was 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs, two doubles and two runs scored.

Sanchez helped Charlotte regain the lead in the fourth inning, breaking a 3-3 tie with a two-run double. She would come around to score one batter later on Mia Campos’ sacrifice fly to give Charlotte a 6-3 lead.

Sanchez wanted to use Three Rivers pitcher Isabelle Lopez’s velocity against her.

“I saw she had a lot of velocity and that we had to hop on it,” Sanchez said. “Once she gave me the pitches I needed, I delivered for my team to get this win.”

Jessalyn Sanchez rounds third base during Charlotte’s 12-7 win over Three Rivers on Thursday, April 1. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

Charlotte tallied 12 hits in the game, a stark contrast to the six they managed in the first meeting between the two teams. That played right into the offensive prowess of the Trojanettes, who have now scored 10 or more runs in eight of their last 14 games.

“We came out here knowing the main thing we had to get was offense, especially for our pitcher,” Sanchez said. “She knew what she had to do and she shut them down.”

Cumpian, Gabby Mata and Stephanie Ramos each had two hits for Charlotte Friday night.

Thursday’s win was just one step closer to the team’s first goal of a district championship.

“This is the first step. This is the first step to the rest of our goals,” Gaitan said. “We have so many goals. We’re trying to take it in baby steps. We already accomplished our first step by taking the lead in district.”

Charlotte will next play Knippa at home on Friday, April 9.

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