Don’t chase anything above the hands. See the ball off the barrel. Lastly, drive it.
Alejandra Rascon has been abiding by that inner monologue since her father put a bat in her hands, and with a capacity crowd pressed against the cyclone fence Tuesday, that quiet voice led to a loud finish for the East Union High School softball team.
Rascon launched a walkoff, three-run home run over the temporary fence in center field, lifting the No. 1 Lancers to a thrilling 5-3 victory over Valley Oak League rival Oakdale.
Michelle Castro and Sam Owen also scored on the play as East Union improved to 14-0.
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Yeah, I hit the ball over the fence, but we won as a team. We’re always working hard, always working on little things, and we brought that onto the field today.
Alejandra Rascon, East Union clean-up hitter, on her game-winning home run
The Lancers now sit alone atop the VOL standings at 6-0, one game ahead of Oakdale (11-1, 5-1). East Union is ranked No. 11 in Cal-Hi Sports’ state poll and could be moving up after Rascon’s heroics.
“I didn’t want to crush it or anything,” said the senior catcher who has committed to Cal State Northridge. “I just wanted to put the ball in play.
“Me and my dad always practice. He’s like, ‘Drive the ball. See the ball. You’re not going to hit without seeing it.’ … I saw one I liked and I went for it.”
Since 2004, the Mustangs lead the head-to-head series with East Union 14-10 but have lost the last three.
“We’re not going to brood over it or let it affect the rest of the year,” Oakdale coach Larry Loger said. “It was a great swing at the right time of the game.”
Rascon’s blast followed one by Oakdale in the top of the seventh. With the Mustangs trailing for most of the game, freshman Lexi Webb completed the comeback with a solo shot that crashed off the base of a permanent fence at Northgate Park. That fence is set back at least 30 feet and served as target practice for The Bee’s top-ranked large-school softball teams.
Webb’s homer gave second-ranked Oakdale its first lead, 3-2. The Mustangs trailed 2-0 after the second inning but drew even with home runs by Haley Fuller and Maddy Brewer in the fifth inning.
Oakdale had just four hits, but three left the yard. The game featured five homers.
“Everyone’s hitting home runs,” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “They showed a lot of power. We have to figure out a way to keep the ball in the yard against them.”
East Union flexed its muscle, too. Delaney Pamplin gave the Lancers a 1-0 lead in the second inning, redistributing a Webb pitch over the fence in center.
Izabella Owen followed Pamplin with a slicing double into the left-field corner. She scored when Allie Tajii’s bunt was misplayed.
As is often the case between these two, the game was decided in their final at-bats.
For a moment, it appeared Webb would be the hero. She crushed a low offering from Mikayla Bongi to deep center.
The Mustangs had a chance to build on that lead. Fuller reached on an error, scooted into second on a passed ball and then swiped third. But Goulart called on a fresh arm – Pamplin, who retired the next three batters.
Heading to the bottom of the seventh, Goulart told his girls to focus on the tying run. He liked his team’s chances in extra innings.
Rascon and her teammates had other plans.
5 Home runs hit by East Union and Oakdale on Tuesday, accounting for all but one run in the Lancers’ 5-3 victory
“We’ll go extra innings. We’ll duke it out. We got a really good second pitcher,” Goulart said of his game plan. “So we said, ‘Get one.’ In the huddle, the girls said, ‘No, get two.’
“They’re ornery little stinkers. We’re a tiny team. We have nobody big. No one is going to be scared of us in a fight, but we got heart and we got moxie. No one was scared today.”
Loger had a feeling his team was in for a rocky finish. Victories don’t come easily against the Lancers, the reigning VOL and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions.
“Every year, they always put people on base in the last inning,” he said. “That’s what they do.”
True to form, Castro led off with a single and Pacific-bound Owen reached on a walk. With her father’s voice steadying her nerves, Rascon connected on her first home run of the season.
Since 2004, Oakdale leads the head-to-head series with East Union 14-10. But the Lancers are closing the gap, having won the past three.
Pamplin earned the win, but Bongi did the heavy lifting. The junior pitched into the seventh, allowing three runs and four hits with six strikeouts. The top half of Oakdale’s order was just 1 for 8 against the left-hander.
“We’re celebrating, but we’re playing them again three more a times at least,” Goulart said. “We’ll play them again at the end of the season and again in the playoffs. That’s a section championship (caliber) team. These are the two best teams. Somebody’s going to have play really good to knock us off and them off, and that’s good. You want to be one of those teams.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re both in same league, but it’s also fortunate because you war against each other and you get up for great games. That was an unbelievable game.”
With a memorable finish, to boot.
“Yeah, I hit the ball over the fence, but we won as a team,” Rascon said. “We’re always working hard, always working on little things, and we brought that onto the field today.”