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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS: Valley Christian’s Morrow cures her illness with walk-off single

By Loren Kopff

Emily Morrow wasn’t feeling too well this past Monday and even during the morning hours this past Tuesday. But the Valley Christian senior shortstop felt a whole lot better in the bottom of the seventh inning in her team’s California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IV softball wild card game against Quartz Hill.

With senior second baseman Nicole Parker on third with one out, Morrow singled to right field on a 1-1 pitch to give the Lady Crusaders a 3-2 victory that sent the team into a May 21 first round road game at Golden West League champion Segerstrom. Morrow, a Boston University signee, was hitless in her first three at-bats but V.C. head coach Jim Snyder had a feeling that she was due.

“She’s been really hot and seasoned and she had been trending up for about nine or 10 games here,” Snyder said. “It’s one of the reasons why she found a way back in the leadoff spot where we desperately needed her at. I just had a feeling that the law of averages was going to catch up to her.”

“I think I was just struggling at the plate, not having a good enough plan and not being so decisive as to whether I wanted to slap, bunt or hit,” Morrow said. “I just went back to the basics and hit off of the tee every day.”

Briana Garrett had led off the inning by walking Parker, who was then sacrificed to second from freshman right fielder Hannah Buckley. Following a wild pitch, Morrow came through which capped off a late inning rally that in which the hosts had trailed 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Morrow had entered the game batting .354 with 29 hits and 15 runs batted in.

“I got into the on-deck circle and all I was thinking was just to get a good pitch which I could hit and just to remember to let my mechanics just go for it,” Morrow said. “I know I have good mechanics, so it was just a matter of executing them at a good time.”

Both teams had trouble getting hits in the early innings as the Lady Crusaders were limited to just a two-out, first inning single from sophomore first baseman Briana Lerma. Meanwhile, junior pitcher Anna Collier was throwing a no-hitter through the first five innings. But she had walked a pair with three other runners reaching on a fielder’s choice and two more being safe on errors.

V.C. (13-13 overall), the second place representative from the Olympic League, struck first in the fourth inning when Lerma singled with one out and came home on a double from freshman Chloe Malau’ulu. The Rebels finally got to Collier with one out in the fifth when she walked Jaquelyn Goodman before serving up a single to Garrett, a double to Sierra Fiala and a base hit to Lyndra Fenald.

“We’ve been giving up three or four of those [walks] in a game and they always seem to come at tough times,” Snyder said. “And that one with one out came at a real rough time. They had some high averages further on down in their lineup and…we could not take another walk that inning.”

V.C. came right back in its half of the inning when senior left fielder Madison Wright, who will be attending Simpson University in Redding, singled down the left field line, marking the end of Melony Howarth’s time in the circle. Enter Krystal Waters, who promptly yielded a single to Lerma which just got under the reach of shortstop Amanda Almond.

Junior third baseman Chanel Varney then hit a grounder to Fiala, whose attempt to force Wright out at third was too late. Following a strikeout, Wight tied the game on a sacrifice fly from senior designated hitter Tia Naulls.

“It’s a very good Quartz Hill pitching staff but they opted for one who didn’t have the control that the starter had, and I think that hurt them,” Snyder said. “It hurt them right down to the point prior to the walk-off when we get the wild pitch and get [Parker] over to third base with less than two outs. That was kind of a gift and they kind of handed that one to us. But the pressure was on them and they let it get away.”

Collier, who has pitched every inning this season, scattered four hits and struck out one. V.C., which has not advanced past the first round since making it to the quarterfinals in 2012, improved their home record to 9-2. That mark is significant considering the team began the season with five straight losses and 10 of its first 12.

“I think it just makes the team more comfortable, especially for our first CIF game and with our freshmen and underclassmen because last year our first CIF game was an away game,” Morrow said. “Half of the team hasn’t experienced a home [playoff] game. So, I think it was good for everyone to get a good, exciting game here at home.”

Should the Lady Crusaders defeat fifth ranked Segerstrom, they would play the winner of the Jurupa Hills/Ramona game on Tuesday in a second round tilt.