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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
PALOS VERDES ESTATES-Norwalk High sophomore pitcher Breanna Vasquez and Palos Verdes High’s Steffi Best were locked into a pitcher’s duel early in their California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III first round game last Thursday. But all of the important action came in the last inning when Best was tagged for three of the five hits Norwalk collected.
Meanwhile, Vasquez was throwing a no-hitter until Keziah Jones led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a home run. In the end, Vasquez was more dominating as she struck out the final two batters of the game to preserve a 2-1 victory. It’s the first time the Lady Lancer’s program has advanced beyond the first round since 2007. In that season, Norwalk edged Mira Costa High 2-1 in a wild card game, then blanked Atascadero High 3-0 on the road.
“It’s an exciting time for our players, school and community,” said Norwalk head coach Paulette Gasporra. “The Lady Lancers worked hard this season and they are excited to move on to the second round of the playoffs.”
The win snapped a stretch of eight straight playoff losses for the Lady Lancers. After six scoreless innings and just two hits off of Best, the Suburban League tri-champions began the top of the seventh with a leadoff single from senior left fielder Briana Lopez. On the next pitch, she raced all the way to third on a bunt from junior second baseman Samantha Navarrete. One pitch later, senior catcher Samantha Ontiveros singled to center to bring home Lopez.
Senior center fielder Serena Nicolas then stepped up and worked Best to a full count before depositing a base hit to the right field gap to plate junior courtesy runner Mercedes Orozco.
“We have been working on getting our bunts down and being aggressive runners, trying to get more than one base on a sacrifice bunt,” Gasporra said. “Briana is quick. She saw [third] base unattended and went for it.”
As far as the pitching went, it was just another spectacular outing for Vasquez, who gave up just the home run and struck out 16. She was perfect until she hit Allisa Beall to begin the sixth but Ontiveros threw her out at second. Following the home run, Claire Malit reached on an error and Vasquez walked Best.
A sacrifice from Katie Silvestri moved the runners over. But the 15th and 16th strikeouts ended further damage. Vasquez threw a first pitch strike to 18 of the 24 batters she faced and was ahead 0-2 11 times. In the other dugout, Best retired the first nine she faced and ended up with nine strikeouts.
“Coming into this game, we knew that it was going to be a good matchup,” Gasporra said. “The first three innings we struggled to get on base. Best is a good pitcher. She hit her corners and got a few of our hitters on her outside pitch and changeup. Breanna was solid for us in the circle this game and throughout our season.”
This past Tuesday, Norwalk continued its season in dramatic fashion as junior first baseman Ashley Ponce smacked a solo home run over the left center fence with one out in the bottom of the seventh to give her team a 2-1 win over Alemany High. The Lady Lancers improved to 15-9 and moved into the quarterfinals for the first time in school history. Norwalk (15-9 overall) hosted fourth-ranked Burroughs High out of Burbank on May 26.
Norwalk trailed Alemany 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth when Vasquez doubled to centerfield and scored on a two-out single from Nicolas. Vasquez was brilliant in the circle again, scattering five hits and striking out nine while yielding a home run to Savannah Pinedo.
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