Gilroy infielder Addie Hulbert throws to first base for an out in the Mustangs’ April 26 win against Branham. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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Heading down the homestretch of the season, Gilroy is on fire. With their best season in 13 years, the Mustangs are in first place in the Blossom Valley Athletic League, Mt. Hamilton Division with an 11-2 record. Willow Glen, at 9-2, is in a virtual tie with the Mustangs. Branham and Sobrato are two steps back, each with four losses.

Over the last five league contests, Gilroy is 5-0 and has outscored the opposition 49-5. That stretch included wins over two of the top quartet, a decisive 12-0 win over Sobrato and a 6-3 victory over Branham.

Up the road in Morgan Hill on a chilly Wednesday April 24, the Mustangs quickly jumped on the Bulldogs with five in the top of the first. Later, they tallied two in the fourth, two in the fifth and three in the sixth for a run-rule advantage win that ended the contest after six frames.

On the day, Gilroy racked up 15 hits, with three each from Lillyam “Bam” Mendoza and Drea Alvarez. Dani Wilson and Caitlin Correia each had two hits and Jocelyn Ta crushed a home run.

“We put our hits together and we worked as a team,” Yslava said. “We looked to attack the first pitch. And we were looking to take it to the opposite field.”

In the circle, Gilroy’s Yslava baffled the Bulldogs, allowing just three hits in a six-inning shutout. In the teams’ first meeting, she yielded just two hits in a seven-inning 1-0 win. Sobrato entered the game with a 13-5 record and had scored 99 runs, a 5.5 per game average. In the two matchups, Yslava and the excellent defense behind her held Sobrato to no runs and five hits over 13 innings.

“We were facing a tough pitcher,” Sobrato coach Dave Bauer said. “She can spot pitches on the corners very effectively and she’s got good velocity.”

There was a lot more Gilroy offense in this rematch, compared to the 1-0 squeaker back on March 22. In the first inning, Wilson, Alvarez, Mendoza and Jennie Henderson put singles together for a 3-0 lead. First baseman Ta was next at bat, with Henderson on first. She blasted the ball over the left field fence, more than 200 feet away. The score jumped to 5-0.

“It was my first homer,” Ta said. “It feels good and exciting. The pitch was inside and I turned on it.”

The fifth inning push was charged by Alvarez’ double off the base of the center field fence and Mendoza’s blast to left, which one-hopped the outfield wall. The sixth inning scoring surge was highlighted by doubles from Addie Hulbert and Mendoza.

Kiyah Vasquez had two of Sobrato’s three hits. Her two-out first-inning triple provided the only scoring threat but Yslava retired Stella Ferrante on a fly to right to quell the rally.

“We needed a good game to beat them and we performed well,” Gilroy coach Dusty Lester said. “We’re hitting the ball well. Our pitching and defense were good. It was a total team effort.”

Lester described it as a “tough week,” as the Mustangs next faced Branham, also right on their heels in the standings. Additionally, the Bruins had ripped Gilroy 10-3 back on March 27. This game went a different way, with the Mustangs leading wire-to-wire.

Gilroy scored a run in the first and added three more in the third. Branham responded with three in the top of the fourth but the Mustangs replied with two more to extend the lead to 6-3. There was no further scoring by either team. Wilson had a single, double and RBI and Ta doubled home a run.

For the season, the Mustangs are 17-5 overall. Yslava holds a superb 1.73 ERA. She credits battery mate Alvarez for a big part of that success.

At the plate, sparkplug Wilson leads off and has shined. She has 33 hits in 69 at bats, a .478 average, along with 19 RBIs. Wilson also leads the team in runs with 26 and steals with nine. Alvarez has 29 hits in 64 plate appearances, a .453 average. She leads Gilroy in both homers with three and RBIs with 24. Mendoza is 24-for-64 for a .375 mark and has two homers and 18 RBIs. Yslava is also superb with a bat, at 18-for-59 for a .305 average.

The schedule continues with Live Oak and Leland this week and the Sarah Villar Memorial game against Christopher on May 4. After that, it’s a non-conference tune-up with West Catholic Athletic League power Archbishop Mitty and a league finale at home against Santa Teresa.

The players are taking it one game at a time but have their sights on a strong playoff run.

“I feel we’ll do pretty good,” Mendoza said. “We have great energy and we’re on a roll.”

Gilroy’s Jocelyn Ta scores a run for the Mustangs against Branham on April 26. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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