The Thunder Mountain softball team has endured some difficult games of late, but Jeslie Villaverde made sure Saturday was a night to remember.
The junior catcher launched a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth just inside the left-field foul pole to give the Falcons a five-run lead on their way to a 6-3 win over defending small schools state champion Sitka at Melvin Park .
It was the second win in the program’s short history.
It was a special night for Villaverde and her Thunder Mountain teammates, who mobbed her at home plate. Turns out, the junior’s first career homer also came on her birthday.
“It felt amazing. I didn’t know I could do that. I was so surprised,” Villaverde said with a huge smile.
But before her big fourth-inning at-bat, Falcons manager Jorge Cordero said his catcher asked if a teammate could pinch hit for her.
She won’t do that again.
“I was scared to hit,” she admitted. “But I don’t think I’m allowed to ask that again. I wanted to hit so badly after that. I was bummed the game was over.”
But the game did end and this time, the Falcons were on top.
The going has been tough recently, but Cordero said for his team to break out of a slump and beat a team like Sitka, it makes it all worth it.
“This is a good feeling,” an emotional Cordero said after meeting with his team. “It’s just like I’ve been telling them, we have heart. I asked, ‘Did we find it?’ They said, ‘Yeah, we found it.’”
The Falcons haven’t had a break go their way in a while, Cordero said before the game. But in the third inning, TMHS got its break.
Down 1-0 and struggling to get much going with the bats, Devin Kubley popped up with the bases loaded and two outs. But Sitka’s second baseman dropped the ball on the infield dirt, allowing three runs to cross the plate and a huge momentum swing for the Falcons.
Villaverde, who had just doubled, crossed the plate for her first run of the game, along with Jacki Mallinger and Madi Wells. Michelle Manning later scored on a passed ball in the same inning.
Then came Villaverde’s bomb in the fourth with Manning on base. The one-out shot gave the Falcons a 6-1 lead, and Thunder Mountain held off a late Sitka rally as the game ended after the top of the sixth when the time limit had been reached.
“This was huge for us,” Cordero said. “The difference was the focus. They fought hard and never gave up.
“We knew we had it. We just had to find it.”
Freshman righty Ashley Boucher pitched a complete game, giving up just three runs while striking out five. Villaverde’s two RBIs were the only ones for Thunder Mountain.
The Falcons face Juneau-Douglas at 5 p.m. on May 17 at Melvin Park.