MENIFEE ---- Paloma Valley sophomore Kailee Smith enjoyed the kind of lead Wednesday afternoon that pitchers just don't surrender.
So she didn't.
Smith tossed a complete game and her offense pounded out 15 hits as the Paloma Valley softball team picked up a key 9-5 Sunbelt League victory over cross-town rival and host Heritage.
Wildcats leadoff hitter Holly Oyenhart went 4-for-4, Karynne Johnston hit a two-run home run, and Middle Tennessee State-signed shortstop Ashley Stassin went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Paloma Valley hit Heritage starter Lexie Blevins hard, scoring eight times on nine hits in the first two innings.
"I couldn't have imagined it going any better at the beginning," Paloma Valley coach Sondra Diaz said. "Everyone was hitting the ball. They did a great job."
Smith worked her changeup and located her pitches on the corners, holding the Patriots without a hit until the fourth inning. She did run into trouble late, particularly after she was hit on the wrist by a pitch while batting in the fifth inning.
"It started to swell up, but she wanted to finish," Diaz said. "And she had earned it."
Smith (7-0) struck out six and walked one in the win. She allowed just four hits, but two of them ---- home runs by Juliet Eaton and Jordan Sage in the bottom of the seventh inning ---- got Heritage to within four runs as it batted through the top of its order.
But Smith coaxed Destiny Ruppel into a game-ending popup to end the threat.
Working with such a lead certainly made things easier for the right-hander.
"It feels like a feeling you can't even describe," Smith said. "You feel like you have a team that will back you up no matter what."
Conversely, Heritage coach Nicole Riscica felt like her ballclub was a little shell shocked early.
"I think we have a ton of talent," Riscica said. "But we just have to kind of get the maturity and get that mental strength where it needs to be to come into the game and start from inning No. 1"
Paloma Valley (10-3, 3-0) took the outright Sunbelt League lead with the win, its fourth consecutive. Heritage fell to 7-6, 2-1 with the loss.
"We started off a little slow at the beginning of the season," Diaz said, "but we're definitely hitting our stride now."