Lely softball team victimized by own mistakes in loss to Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast softball coach Amy Lovett has a conference with Jessica DelDuca, left, Molly Royce and batter Mya Giusto during a pitching change in the eighth inning of Monday night's game at Lely. With Giusto at the plate, DelDuca and Royce would score on a passed ball and throwing error to give the Sharks a 4-2 victory.

Lely softball coach Yelissa Rivera knew the Trojans were in for a challenge against Gulf Coast on Monday night.

In many ways, the teams are very similar - talented but inexperienced squads still trying to find that consistent winning formula.

And as happens with many inexperienced units, mistakes can occur at the most inopportune times.

A passed ball and throwing error on the same play did the Trojans in, as Gulf Coast rallied for a 4-2 victory in eight innings.

"A lot of missed opportunities tonight," Rivera said. "We had a lot of batters reach base that we just couldn't seem to bring home. That's where the issues came, and ultimately those mistakes at the end cost us. I had a feeling that this game in particular, the team that made the least amount of mistakes was the team that was going to win, and sure enough that's exactly what happened."

Gulf Coast coach Amy Lovett lauded her team's effort, saying the Sharks haven't always played well this season when falling behind early. But after giving up two runs in the second inning, Gulf Coast immediately responded with two of their own in the top of the third. Brooke O'Regan's two-run single highlighted the frame, which made her coach very happy.

"We haven't done the best job of coming back against decent teams," Lovett said. "But after they scored (two runs), I told our girls 'right here, you need to get those two back.' And they did, it was 2-2 and we were right back in the game."

Lely's Sara Leon pitched well, keeping the Sharks off balance with an assortment of off-speed pitches. Gulf Coast finally solved her in the eighth, when Jessica DelDuca and Molly Royce ripped back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Sensing the Sharks were finally sizing up Leon's finesse offerings, Rivera went to hard-throwing freshman Kaylie Araujo for a different look.

Lely sophomore Sara Leon delivers a pitch during the fifth inning of Monday night's game against Gulf Coast. Leon pitched into the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss.

Royce promptly stole second, and behind in the count, Araujo uncorked a wild one high that catcher Bianca Palacios couldn't corral. DelDuca scored on the passed ball and when Palacios' throw to third couldn't be dug out, Royce raced home for a 4-2 lead.

"We've struggled all year with the slow pitchers and today wasn't any different," Lovett said. "But we didn't let our struggles at the plate affect our defense and we thought if we kept plugging away, we'd get our chance. I thought, aside from the one inning, our pitchers threw the ball very well today, and we executed on defense. Finally started swinging the bats in that last inning."

Rivera said the Trojans will continue to learn from games like this.

"We haven't quite figured out what it takes to win at a consistent level," Rivera said. "The talent is there but we still make the mistakes that young teams make. That experience, that feeling you know you're going to win, that comes with time. We'll get there."