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CIF: Norwalk collapses in wild card loss to Long Beach Poly

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION II SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS

By Loren Kopff

Norwalk’s softball team was destined to snap a six-game postseason skid as it led host Long Beach Poly 11-0 midway through its California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II wild card game this past Monday evening. But the Jackrabbits took advantage of Norwalk’s inadequate defense and rallied in the final four innings, scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh to stun the Lady Lancers 12-11 at Joe Rodgers Stadium.

Norwalk, which has not won a playoff game since advancing to the second round in 2007, ends the season at 8-15, its worst mark since 2005.

“I thought we had it in hand before we had it in hand and it slipped away inning by inning,” said Norwalk head coach Tony Aguirre. “That’s why we play seven innings because you never know what’s going to happen until the game ends. We should have taken care of [the lead] but we didn’t.”

Norwalk scored six runs in the top of the second by sending 10 batters to the plate. Three consecutive singles loaded the bases for sophomore center fielder Serena Nicolas, who quickly cleared the bases with a triple to the centerfield fence. Later in the inning, junior shortstop Jazmin Guzman and sophomore designated player Briana Lopez had run scoring hits.

With the score 7-0, Norwalk added four more tallies in the fourth inning by batting around. Senior left fielder Jennifer Vasquez brought in Guzman with a single down the third base line. Two batters later, senior right fielder Amanda Benas laced a single down the third base line as well to plate Lopez and on the next pitch, Nicolas sent another single to center to bring home Vasquez and Benas.

With the score 11-0, Aguirre began to make a few defensive substitutions which allowed the Jackrabbits to chip away at the lead. The fourth place representatives from the Moore League scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth, three off of freshman pitcher Sam Navarette and the other two off of Benas, who would throw just 12 pitches while facing three batters in the inning and one in the fifth.

“[Making the substitutions] might have played a small part in it but we made crucial mistakes all around the field,” Aguirre said of Poly’s comeback. “It might have been in the infield, it might have been at this base or that base or in the outfield. Then some of those hits were in the gaps and it didn’t matter who we had out there. That ball is going there anyway.”

After Norwalk, which lost for the fifth time in its last six games of the season, failed to reach base in the fifth, Poly scored three more in its half of the inning to make it an 11-8 contest. The hosts scored two more runs in the next inning courtesy of a home run from Ally O’Neill with the outfield drawn in. The Lancers had a chance to add a run or two in the top of the seventh as sophomore third baseman Kathleen Perez reached on an infield single with one out. Then with two outs, Guzman singled and Lopez was safe on an error to load the bases. But Vasquez popped up to first to end the threat.

Two errors and a walk would load the bases for the Jackrabbits in the bottom of the seventh before Merina Ili singled to center to drive in the tying and winning runs. Norwalk pounded out 16 hits with Benas and senior catcher and University of California, Santa Barbara commit Samantha Lujan each going three for four. Guzman and Nicolas would each add a pair of hits but Norwalk got three of those hits over the last three innings and defensively, made four errors.

‘[Poly] kept their confidence up and had hit after hit and scored,” Aguirre said. “We made some miscues that we shouldn’t have made. But it is what it is. Congratulations to [Poly] but we should have bounced back and got them.”