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Niebla wins first league title

May 16, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

It took Southwest High softball coach Stephanie Niebla three years of enduring mediocrity to get to the pinnacle of the Imperial Valley League.

On Wednesday Niebla won her first league championship as Southwest head coach, beating defending champ Central Union High 2-1 at Central in El Centro to complete a 10-2 league season.

"It feels good. It feels really good to finally win it. For the past three years we were kind of rebuilding and this year we were finally able to put it all together," said Niebla. "The first half (of league) is always tough. But I think the second half this team really matured and came together to become a more complete team."


The first half of the league schedule the Eagles finished 4-2 and were in a dogfight with four other teams all within a game of first place. But in the second half a stronger defense and greater offensive production led Southwest to a 6-0 mark to close the regular season.

What's even more impressive is the Eagles accomplished what they did with an underclassmen-laden team with only one senior, Melissa Frausto, and a freshmen battery, pitcher Melissa Lerno and catcher Nikki Cordova, who saw the majority of league action at their positions.

"I knew that we had the potential to have a good year and with the chemistry of the team I knew we'd give everyone competition," said Niebla.

On Tuesday the Eagles gave Central enough competition to sweep the season series, which was another first for Niebla. Earlier this year the difference in Southwest's 4-2 win over the Spartans was a three-run home run by Jessica Conway.

Again it was Conway who led the Eagles past Central on Wednesday as she connected on a two-run double in the third inning that scored Frausto and Cordova to give Southwest a 2-0 lead.

It was Conway's only hit of the game, but it was as big as hits get, as it came with two outs.

"My main goal was to get a hit. That's all I wanted more than anything," said Conway. "When I went up to bat I was just hoping that I didn't get out because there were runners on.

"Everyone was just telling me to calm down and focus on that. Then I took that pitch pretty deep," said Conway. "But if not for Melissa and Nicky being on base, that hit would've just been nothing more than a double."

While Conway's double was more than just a two-bagger, it was one of eight hits given up by Marissa Guzman, who took the loss on the mound for the Spartans.

Leading Southwest's offense was Frausto, who finished 3-for-3 and reached base a fourth time on a Spartan error.

Guzman led the Central offense with two hits off Lerno, who got the win, throwing a complete game, giving up four hits and striking out five.

"This was a big win for us because of the whole rivalry between Central and Southwest. So coming into it we were all pretty pumped up," said Lerno. "Even though it was a big game and pretty important, I wasn't really nervous at all. I just took it like any other game."

Lerno and her teammates got into some trouble in the bottom of the seventh as Central scored a run.

With one out, Liz Lechuga got on base on an error. Rachél Montalvo struck out for the second out and then Monica Sandoval came through with a double that scored Lechuga. Sandoval overran second, dived back to the base and appeared to be safe, but was called out, ending the game and the Spartans' season.

"It would've been nice if (the umpires) allowed the girls to play the game instead of affecting the game with their calls," said Montalvo. "You know, let the girls play and let them decide the outcome of the game, not the umpires."

The Spartans finish the season 5-7 in IVL.

Brawley 9, Calexico 0

BRAWLEY — The Brawley Union High softball team snapped its five-game losing streak to finish its regular season on a winning note, beating Calexico 9-0 in Imperial Valley League action here Wednesday.

Stephanie Murray picked up the win for Brawley, giving up only three hits and striking out two.

Leighan Sudduth led the Brawley offense with two hits, two runs and an RBI. Erin Rutherford added two hits, including a double, a run and an RBI.

Eileen Ronquillo took the loss for Calexico (1-11), giving up 9 hits.

Palo Verde 7, Holtville 6,

eight innings

BLYTHE — The Holtville High softball team blew a 6-2 lead to Palo Verde in Imperial Valley League action here Wednesday, losing 7-6 in eight innings.

Despite only allowing two earned runs and striking out five, Lauren Huyler took the loss for Holtville, which finishes the IVL tied for third place with Imperial with a 7-5 record.

Leading the Viking offense were Jessica Young, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs, Marizela Valenzuela, who went 2-for-2 with two runs and Michelle Strahm, who went 2-for-4 with a run.

The Holtville defense committed five errors.

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