WARDEN — College Place coach Jill James walked past Warden coach Melissa Gonzales, motioned toward starter Jizelle Pruneda and asked, “Did she get faster?”
It sure seemed that way.
Pruneda carried a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings and struck out a season-high 14, helping Warden win its district tournament opener against College Place 5-0.
“She keeps us in games and if she gets good defense and some offense obviously we'll do alright,” head coach Wes Richins said.
Thursday's pitchers' duel between Pruneda and Paris Orchard was of stark contrast to the first two games played in March. Warden won a pair of slugfests, 17-7 and 11-9.
Orchard kept pace with Pruneda at the start, striking out four over the first two innings.
However, the second and third time through the lineup the Cougars began to square up pitches from the Hawks' left-hander.
In the third inning, Kassandra Rodriguez reached base when her shallow fly ball was dropped on a collision in the outfield. A sharp ground ball by Ashlyn Yamane put two runners on for clean-up hitter Jocelyn Chagoya.
Chagoya picked an opportune time to break out of a minor slump, crushing a three-run homer to left-center field.
That was more than enough for Pruneda.
“I think once we saw that we had three (runs) we kind of got to relax more and everyone started getting loose and that's when we started all get on our hits,” she said.
Warden tested the College Place infielders in the fourth inning.
After a single by Leanne Martinez, Pruneda and Rodriguez both legged out bunts to load the bases. Ashlyn Yamane came up with two outs, worked a full count and fouled off pitch after pitch before she sprayed a two-run single into center field.
“That was huge,” Richins said. “We want to have quality at-bats. We want to be able to put the ball in play.”
Natalie Orchard broke up Pruneda's no-hitter with one out in the sixth inning. Teisha Payne beat out a throw to first base to put two runners on with one out.
Pruneda bounced back to record two of her 14 strikeouts.
Alexanderia Johnson hit a two-out single to extend College Place's hopes in the seventh inning. But Pruneda ended the game with — what else — a strikeout.
Warden will play Zillah in the district semifinals May 20 at Connell High School.
“It was a good team effort,” Richins said. “I was really pleased with everything.”
- Chagoya HR, 3 RBI;
- Pruneda 14 K;
- Yamane 2 RBI