West High pitcher Shayna Alofipo stepped off the rubber and took a deep breath. Her large lead had been sliced nearly in half in the previous inning, and she knew she had to refocus if she was going to keep the game from slipping away.
Two innings and six outs later it was clear — she did just that.
Alofipo had little trouble finishing off Kearns in the final two innings, and her offense provided some insurance runs, as West dispatched the Cougars 10-3 in a nonregion game Monday afternoon.
After cruising through the first four innings unscathed, Alofipo’s speed bump came in the fifth, when the Cougars struck for three runs. But instead of letting momentum escape, the freshman pitcher found her mental fortitude.
“When I struggle, I usually get mad at myself,” said Alofipo, who gave up three earned runs and struck out eight in a complete-game effort. “But I know it’s a team sport, so I can’t just think about myself. I have to help the team out, and if I go mess up on the pitcher’s mound, I can’t help my team.”
The Panthers backed Alofipo with plenty of offense. After scoring one in the first, they broke open the game in the second, keyed by back-to-back two-run hits from Breah Ava and Alofipo, who capped the rally with a triple into the right-center gap.
“I was trying to be selective but aggressive at the same time,” Alofipo said. “I saw an outside pitch, which was what got me out the first time — I popped it up — so I was able to stay on top of it and drive it.”
Ava, who also is a freshman, had a perfect day at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 with a walk and four runs batted in.
“I just know that I have a lot of confidence,” Ava said. “I have a really great batting coach, and it also gives me confidence when I know the person on deck behind me has my back.”
Now the Panthers will try to continue a hot start to the season. A roster loaded with young talent that already is seeing positive results has the Panthers optimistic they can turn around a program that in recent years has been stagnant.
“That’s definitely what we’re trying to do,” Alofipo said. “Our program is definitely better than it’s been. I think we’re going to have a good season.”
Storylines West 10, Kearns 3
R West pitcher Shayna Alofipo goes the distance, giving up three earned runs while striking out eight.
• The Panthers jump out to a big lead with a five-run second inning.
• West’s Breah Ava goes 3-for-3 with a walk and four RBIs.