HUNTINGTON BEACH – Huntington Beach pitcher Grace Uribe waited with a wide smile and congratulatory hand for shortstop Jaylene Duarte to float toward her after a sparkling defensive play in the fourth inning Tuesday.
Like they had all afternoon, Uribe and Duarte found their mark. They exchanged a mighty high-five after the freshman fielded a grounder and threw from behind second base to record the final out at first base with runners at second and third.
“She broke my hand,” Uribe said of Duarte with a laugh. “That one hurt.”
Uribe’s hand survived but the Surf League race moved toward even more uncertainty with just two dates left on the schedule.
Uribe fired a one-hitter and belted a two-run home run in the first inning as the visiting No. 6 Oilers defeated No. 2 Marina 4-0 to spoil the Vikings’ hopes of clinching at least a share of the title in the toughest league in Orange County.
“Today, I think we came out to ruin other people’s chances,” said Uribe, a Texas A&M commit who allowed a second-inning single, struck out three and went 2 for 4 at the plate.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen (in this league). … We were kind of falling a little bit and now I think we’re gaining that (confidence) back, becoming goofy again and having fun.”
The Oilers (15-7, 4-4) have only played one game – opening day – at full strength because of injuries.
They’ve endured their ups and downs in the Surf League but put first-place Marina (16-7, 5-3) on its heels thanks to Uribe’s home run with one out in the first.
The junior followed a sharp single by Megan Ryono by belting an inside pitch for a line-drive home run through the wind and over the fence in right.
“She’s matured and she competes,” Huntington Beach coach Jeff Forsberg said of Uribe.
Huntington Beach added two runs in the fourth on two-out RBI singles by seniors Valerie Rudd and Jadelyn Allchin.
In the bottom of the inning, Duarte ranged to her left to take away a hit and end Marina’s best scoring threat.
“She definitely saved my shutout a couple times,” Uribe said of Duarte.
Red-hot Emily Rush struck out nine batters for Marina, which plays host to Los Alamitos (16-7, 3-3) on April 23.
“I’m very satisfied we’re in the hunt,” Marina co-coach Dan Hay said. “A lot of people never predicted Marina would be where we’re at.”
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