Lady Heralds lose early lead, fall to Temescal Canyon in first round
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
The Whittier Christian softball team went into the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs riding a five-game win streak and plenty of momentum after a blowout win over Maranatha to close the regular season.
The co-Olympic League champions took a quick 2-0 lead over first-round opponent Temescal Canyon, but the offense went stagnant the rest of the way as the Titans came back to defeat the Lady Heralds 4-2, Tuesday afternoon at home.
With strong winds coming in from the outfield, Whittier Christian’s attempts to get under the ball and drive it into the outfield resulted in seven infield pop fly balls and four more routine fly balls into the outfield.
“I felt confident that we could make a run at CIF,” said Dale Van Duyn, Whittier Christian head coach. “However much confidence we have, we still have to do the job. We made adjustments early, but couldn’t keep it going.”
In contrast, Temescal Canyon broke through with ground balls up the middle and a couple line drives. The Titans took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning with RBI singles by Kora Wade and Mikayla Lawerence.
The Titans [19-10] had no problem driving the ball back up the middle, however, Lady Heralds’ starting pitcher Katelyn Wagner gloved five of those ground balls for outs.
“We played a good game, Katelyn pitched a great game,” Van Duyn said. “Hannah [Gabriel] came in and played great and Taylor [Escobar] came up with some big plays. I thought we played a great game, it shouldn’t have ended up this way, but that’s softball.”
In the seventh inning, the Titans padded their lead with a sacrifice fly by Taylor Eden, scoring Kendall Niccoli-Sampang from third base.
Whittier Christian scored both of its runs in the first inning. After loading the bases, Escobar then hit a sharp grounder up the middle to give the Lady Heralds a quick 2-0 lead. Behind the plate, Escobar came up with a key double play to end a threat in the second inning.
But Temescal Canyon starting pitcher Mo Libunao settled down after the rocky start, retiring nine batters in a row at one point.
“I have to give credit to [Libunao], she kept it to where we tried to get underneath it and we didn’t adjust,” Van Duyn said.
The Lady Heralds finish their season with a 16-11 record and claimed a share of the Olympic League title before falling in the first round, Tuesday.
“What I liked about this group was that they refocused and realized they had to compete as a group,” Van Duyn said. “When they did that, they won games and accomplished great things.”