Hawks Soar Past Plainsmen, Naotala Hits Walk-Off Grand Slam
Spectators at Foundation Field not only saw a doubleheader Wednesday at which the Howard College Hawk softball squad trounced Frank Phillips College 11-3 the first game and 12-0 the second, but were also treated to a homerun display — eight to be exact — by Hawk batters including a walk-off grand slam by the NJCAA home run leader, Olive Naotala, which ended the first game in dramatic fashion.
After falling behind 2-0 to the Plainsmen early in Game One, the HC hitting engine apparently just needed to warm up a little before cranking out the runs.
A Micherie Koria grounder up the middle got the ball rolling in the bottom of the third inning and Faith Koria bunted to advance M. Koria to third base. Olive Naotala then contributed her first — but certainly not last — clutch hit of the outing by delivering a two-run triple to tie the game at 2-all. Naotala would score on a bad throw giving HC a one-run advantage.
The Plainsmen battled back, and tied the game 3-3 in the top of the fourth. By the bottom of the inning though, the Hawk batters had caught fire.
Andrea Gutierrez belted a two-run home run, M. Koria singled, and Naotala advanced Koria with a double. Jazzmin Arrant popped a sacrifice fly to score Koria, giving the Hawks a 6-3 advantage at the end of the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Kara Isbel hit a solo homer increasing HC’s lead to 7-3. A Carlyn Teichmann single, M. Koria being hit by a pitch, and a walk drawn by F. Koria loaded the bases for Naotala.
With one swing of the bat, the game was over. Naotala had struck again, recording her 24th home run of the season and ending the game with a score of 11-3.
Sandra Serna picked up the complete game victory for the Hawks in Game One. In Game Two, Raines decided to allow Naotala to terrorize the Plainsmen from the mound as well as at the plate, giving her the nod as starting pitcher — her second mound appearance of the season.
Naotala struck out the Frank Phillips batters in order in the top of the second, and would record three Ks on the day.
With the Hawks ahead 1-0, Teichmann singled in the bottom of the second inning, and was sent home on Claudette Smith double. F. Koria scored on an error and Naotala struck again, this time smashing a three-run home run to give the HC a commanding 6-0 lead.
Arrant then walked, putting a runner on base just in time for Megan Granado to smack a two-run home run, making the score 8-0 to end the long inning for the Plainsmen.
The Hawks — most notably Naotala — weren’t through yet. Teichmann added to the home run frenzy with a solo shot in the bottom of the third and with two runners on, Naotala hit her third home run — a two-run shot — of the day and recorded RBI numbers eight and nine, giving the HC an insurmountable 11-0 lead.
By the bottom of the fourth inning, Frank Phillips College must have been ready to wave the white flag.
Melanie Vasquez must not have seen it. Vasquez joined the party with a solo homer of her own — the eighth of the day for the Hawks — making it a 12-0 ball game.
The Plainsmen couldn’t respond in the top of the fifth, and the game was brought to an early end with a run-rule victory.
Collectively, the Hawks hit well as a team but it was Naotala who provided the initial spark.
“We are a slow starting team,” HC Head Coach Kelly Raines said. “But (Naotala) is a beast. Her hitting is contagious.”
As for Naotala, she was just happy to be pitched to throughout the two games.
“I was surprised they were pitching to me,” she said.
Next up for Howard College is a four-game series against conference foe Odessa College slated for April 27-28.
BY BRIAN MCCORMACK