BARSTOW • The Lady Aztecs kicked off their home schedule in fine style.
The Barstow softball team played its first home game and first Desert Sky League match on Friday. Burroughs came to town, with the two teams sporting identical 7-3 records from the past couple of weeks of tournament play.
The Burros took control by breaking a 1-1 tie with two runs in the third, then seemingly put the wraps on a big win with a seven-run fifth.
There was just one problem: the Lady Aztecs weren't done.
Barstow came alive after five relatively dormant innings to score four runs in the sixth, then made the most of their last licks by blasting two singles, a triple, and then a walk-off home run from Chelsea Phillips in the seventh to take an unlikely, 11-10 victory.
Even with the season so young, it wasn't the first time this year the Lady Aztecs have managed to climb out of an early hole they dug for themselves. Last week in the Quartz Hill Tournament, they gave up seven first-inning runs to Victor Valley, only to go on and win, 11-8.
Given that, Barstow head coach Richard Johannsen wasn't shocked that his team accomplished what it did on Friday.
"We have a very stacked line-up. We have six girls currently hitting over .500," he said after the win. "Last year we had more power, but this year, everybody hits. We're hitting almost .470 as a team, so a big comeback isn't all that surprising."
It took a while for the home team to get the offense going. Burroughs got a run in the top of the first, and the Aztecs answered with one in the bottom half. Aleesha Rodriguez led off with a single to left, stole second, moved to third on Jordan Neal's single, and scored on Marissa Dado's ground out.
The middle innings, though, brought a drought, as Barstow got singles from Teren Hedberg and Phillips in the second, but were set down 1-2-3 in the third, fourth and fifth. There were some hard-hit balls, but the Burros corralled all of them.
"We hit a lull there in the center of the game," said Johannsen. "There were too many quick innings. We can't be giving away easy outs."
Burroughs took the lead with two runs in the third, as Alyssa Gaska walked and Becca Bell homered her in. In the fifth, there were seven runs, highlighted by a three-run dinger to right by Aniessa Martinez.
That made it a 10-1 game going into the sixth. Even down by that much that late, Johannsen said the positive attitude never left his players.
"It was funny that we were trailing and we were talking and cheering, and they had a big lead and were quiet," he said. "This is such an emotional group. As long as we keep the energy positive, we're fine."
That positive energy paid off in the sixth, as Barstow started chipping away. Miranda Peralta got it going with a one-out single and stole second. Neal then reached on a fielder's choice as the Burros tried to gun down Peralta at third, and failed, leaving both runners on for Dado, who singled in Peralta. Meagan Alvarez reached on an error, and Hedberg drove Neal in with a single. After a strikeout, Deanna Lopez hit a hard two-out grounder that was bobbled badly enough to allow Dado and Alvarez to score.
But even after that, Barstow was still behind by five. In the top of the seventh, Aztecs pitcher Hannah Abeita set the Burros down in order with some help from her defense. All three batters popped up, with first baseman Hedberg, third baseman Alvarez, and catcher Phillips all making nice grabs.
In the bottom half, Burroughs only managed to register one out before the Aztecs got six runs home. Neal had two RBI, tripling to drive in Peralta, and then scoring herself when the throw to third went wide. Dado followed with a single and stole second, hustling home when Alvarez singled to left-center. Hedberg then drew a walk, putting Phillips, the potential winning run, at the plate.
At that point the Aztecs trailed by two, so a home run would win the game. Not that that was on Phillips' mind.
"I wasn't thinking about that, I just wanted to hit the ball," she said. "It was solid, but I didn't know where it went at first; then I saw it go over the fence."
As for the victory, Phillips said, "I thought we'd come back, I just didn't think I'd do it."
Coach Johannsen has no doubts about his catcher's abilities.
"I hope Chelsea realizes she doesn't have to swing so hard," he said. "If she just makes contact, she has such great speed that she can make things happen. She just needs to relax."
The Burros used two pitchers. Bailey Walters tossed four-plus innings, allowing two runs on five hits, walking none and striking out two. Bell took over in the fifth, and gave up nine runs on six hits over 2.1 innings.
Barstow got a total of 11 hits, including a pair of singles from Dado (two RBI) and Hedberg (RBI), a single and triple from Neal (two RBI), and a single and walk-off homer from Phillips (three RBI). Alexis York started in the circle, giving up six runs on three hits over 4.1 innings, walking seven and striking out one. Abeita got the win, allowing four runs on six hits, walking one and fanning one.
"We still have to cut down on the walks and errors. If we don't, we'll be in trouble," said coach Johannsen. "We had eight walks and two errors today, that's 10 free baserunners. We can't be giving that away.
"But I think that will come around, and we have such a potent line-up. We just have to tighten up the defense. The offense will take care of itself."
The Lady Aztecs will be home again on Wednesday, taking on Victor Valley for a 3:15 p.m. start.