Big swing by Palos Verdes leads to early exit for Lady Highlanders
by Daniel Hargis
La Habra Journal
One inning was all it took to sway the tide of Tuesday’s CIF-SS Division 3 First Round softball game between co-Freeway League champion La Habra and Palos Verdes.
Unfortunately for the Lady Highlanders, the tide swayed in favor of the visiting Sea Queens, who prevailed 5-1 after winning their wild card matchup 7-3 against Kaiser on Monday.
“That’s what happens in the playoffs,” La Habra head coach Frank McCarroll said. “You get an opportunity to win and teams take advantage of it, we didn’t and they did.”
Palos Verdes (21-6, 8-2), the No. 2 team from the Bay League, trailed 1-0 entering the top of the fifth inning.
Consecutive singles to open the inning put pressure on La Habra (18-11, 7-3), but a walk issued by pitcher Janelle Rodriguez created a jam that it would not get out of.
Rodriguez hit the next batter to even the score at 1-1. Senior second baseman Sami Silvestri batted in the game-winning run at the next at bat, and the next play proved to put the game out of reach.
Junior third baseman Johniann Wahl belted a double to center field to score two more. The cutoff throw leaked past La Habra catcher Nikki Butler, allowing Silvestri to score the fifth run of the inning.
“Every team has a bad play, that one kind of ruined the game for us,” sophomore center fielder Jayanna Perez said.
It was bad timing for La Habra, who only had nine outs left to work with. The Palos Verdes defense took care of the rest, allowing only one more base runner, which came on an error.
La Habra, who earned the Freeway League’s No. 1 seed on a coin flip, scored its run in the first inning.
Consecutive singles and a walk fueled the fire, much like in the fifth inning for Palos Verdes, and Butler batted in the run on an infield single.
Rodriguez finished with one strikeout, two walks, six hits and four earned runs in five innings. Taylor Pierce rounded things out with three strikeouts, zero walks and zero runs in two innings.
Sea Queens pitcher Steffi Best pitched well, striking out eight, hitting one, and giving up six hits and one earned run.
Perez had a game-high three hits and the Lady Highlanders stranded six base runners.
“We were looking for hits with people on base and we didn’t get it done,” McCarroll said. “We’re still young and most of the kids we’re counting on are coming back (next season).”
La Habra finished the season with its sixth consecutive Freeway League championship, along with Fullerton and Sunny Hills in a three-way tie, and graduates only three seniors.