Kayla’s big night

Kayla Aldridge hustles into third before scoring the third and

Salinas
– Gilroy’s Kayla Aldridge ended her softball career with a bit
of a homecoming.
The senior attended Tri-County Athletic League softball
powerhouse Notre Dame her freshman year. On Wednesday, she was
reunited with Spirits ace Kim Reeder and shortstop Melissa Pura
with all three playing for the TCAL squad in the first annual
Tri-County Athletic League Senior Game.
Salinas – Gilroy’s Kayla Aldridge ended her softball career with a bit of a homecoming.

The senior attended Tri-County Athletic League softball powerhouse Notre Dame her freshman year. On Wednesday, she was reunited with Spirits ace Kim Reeder and shortstop Melissa Pura with all three playing for the TCAL squad in the first annual Tri-County Athletic League Senior Game.

“It was fun, a cool experience,” Aldridge said. “I don’t usually play with these people. I just play against them.”

What’s more, Aldridge got to drive home Reeder in the eighth inning for what ended up being the deciding run in the 3-1, eight-inning TCAL victory over an All-Star team comprised of seniors from the Monterey Bay and Mission Trail Athletic leagues.

The St. Mary’s-bound Aldridge shared shortstop duties with North Salinas’ Calla Lee and Salinas’ Britney Armbruster. When she wasn’t at short, Aldridge patrolled center field, a position she’s used to playing for her travel team.

The TCAL squad broke a 1-1 tie and scored two runs in the eighth inning for the 3-1 win.

The focus of the game was not so much on the result as it was on giving a talented group of seniors one last game on the diamond as high school players. An overflow crowd came out to the Salinas Sports Complex to watch the players, much to the delight of event organizers and participants.

“We weren’t sure what kind of crowd we would get, but we are just thrilled,” said Live Oak assistant coach Debbie Adamo. “We made enough money to cover expenses. We’re just real excited about it and hope that it can carry on.”

Adamo, who helped organize the event with Notre Dame coach Joe Given, said the league wanted to have a senior game last year but it never came to fruition. This year, they made it a priority.

“I brought it up at the league meeting and I said, ‘Can we do this?,'” Adamo said. “It would really be nice to do something annual, get the girls to all play together so they’re all on one team, and the coaches agreed to do it.”

Although Hollister had the most seniors chosen to participate, none of the Haybalers were in attendance. Megan Smith, Richelle Barrientos, Dani Hernandez and Julie Broyer were slated to play.

It would have been Barrientos’ and Live Oak pitcher Juliette Bowers’ first game as teammates before both of head off to play for Canisius College in New York in the fall.

“I’ve met her, but I haven’t played with her,” said Bowers, who played left field and pitched the last two innings of the game and struck out all three MBL/MTAL batters in the crucial bottom of the eighth. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, definitely something to look forward to.”

After being held hitless through three innings, the TCAL team broke out in the fourth. Salinas’ Calli Lenke led off with a flare single to short right field. North Salinas’ Yee moved Lenke over to third on a bunt single. Bowers followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance the two runners to second and third. Then Notre Dame’s Pura hit a hard sacrifice grounder to shortstop to drive home Lenke and break the scoreless tie.

But the TCAL squad wouldn’t hold its 1-0 lead for long. In the bottom of the fourth, Monte Vista Christian’s Martha Ramirez took an upstairs pitch from Salinas’ Armbruster deep to left field and over Bowers’ head. The ball rolled into the left field corner and Ramirez ended up scoring on an inside-the-park home run, which tied the score at 1-1.

The teams remained tied until the top of the eighth. Notre Dame’s Reeder, who will be pitching for Ohio State next year, led off the order with a walk and then stole second and third on passed balls while Aldridge was at the plate. Aldridge sent a grounder hit to the right side of the field, which got past Monte Vista Christian’s Ramirez for a hit and allowed Reeder to score. After being moved to second on a sacrifice hit from North Salinas’ Jessica Boyle, Aldridge scored the third and final run thanks to an overthrow to first base on North Salinas second baseman Richelle Morales’ grounder to shortstop.

Bowers struck out three straight batters in the bottom half of the inning to preserve the win.

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