Keely Clark hit a game-winning grand slam to back the four hit pitching of Kaitlyn Alvarado and Esperanza Coe to lead the Yucaipa softball team to a 7-3 win over visiting Cajon on Tuesday.
Clark's slam came in the bottom of third inning with the Thunderbirds trailing 2-1. Her single in the first inning scored Sydnee Huff, who along with Alvarado finished with three hits.
Although there is plenty of the season left, Yucaipa coach David Kivett recognized his team had to win against Cajon. Both teams sit a top the Citrus Belt League with 6-1 records. Yucaipa is 13-8 overall.
"We are looking to repeat for our fourth league championship and we have something that everyone else wants. Everyone is going to play us hard," said Kivett. "We are going into a hostile environment next to play Cajon and we have to win there, too."
Clark's dramatic home run was set up after Alvarado singled with two outs. Megan Martin then walked, and Madyson Marvulli was hit by a pitch. After fouling off a pitch, Clark extended on an outside fastball and drove it well over the centerfield fence. "I went to the plate with the plan to be relaxed and get a base hit," said Clark. "Honestly, I did not know it went over the fence until I got to second base."
Assistant coach Stephanie Landavazo said it was the first game-winning grand slam that she has witnessed in more than 25 years at Yucaipa. Landavazo is a former YHS multi-sport athlete. "There are just some people who always seem to be there when something special is ready to happen. Clark is one of those people," said Landavazo. "She is a top leader who has the experience to produce in important situations."
Clark was a freshman starter for the 2015 Yucaipa CIF-championship team that was also named national champions. Clark, who can play any position was the catcher on Tuesday.
She has verbally committed to play on scholarship at the University of Maine. As the only junior left from the 2015 team, Clark said this season is special because it will be her last with the other remaining teammates from the national title team. She leads this season's team with five home runs and 19 RBI.
Senior Megan Martin is one of those five champions still playing. It was Martin who singled and scored the winning run against Mission Viejo to win the CIF title. "I have the same desire this season but undoubtedly my role now is to be a leader," said Martin, who will play next year at Loyola-Marymount.
Martin added that it was important to give Cajon its first league loss. She said the YHS 2017 team is different from the 2015 team because it must rely more on a strong defense and timely hitting. Yucaipa was led that year by All-American pitcher Brooke Bollinger.
Winning pitcher Alvarado was Bollinger-like against Cajon by using a blazing fastball to escape rallies in the first three innings. Coe relieved for a four-inning save. Coe, a freshman, got out of a bases loaded, no outs jam in the fifth by getting two strikeouts.
All three Cajon runs were unearned. Yucaipa's Sheyenne White made two good running plays in rightfield. Huff leads YHS this season with 36 hits, 20 runs, and a .510 batting average.