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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION 6 SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS :Valley Christian rallies, then loses lead in seventh inning in wild card setback to San Marino


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter



SAN MARINO-Valley Christian High’s softball team finished in a three-way tie for third place in the Olympic League this season along with Heritage Christian High and Whitter Christian High. A coin flip had to be taken to determine the final automatic berth to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs.

Whichever of the three teams had a color on the coins different than the other two would see their season extended while the other two would start preparing for their banquets. V.C. had blue while the other two teams had another color, and the Lady Crusaders drew San Marino High in a Division 6 wild card game this past Tuesday. Despite rallying from a three-run deficit to take the lead in the top of the seventh inning, the Lady Crusaders were one strike away from the win.in the bottom half of the frame. But a pair of errors allowed the Titans to steal a 6-5 victory that left head coach Nichole McGahey and her team stunned.

“It was tough because our girls answered back, and they were on a high and they had so much energy,” McGahey said. “That’s the thing of our season; where errors just killed us.”

The Lady Crusaders were down 4-3 entering the top of the seventh when junior second baseman Morgan McGahey singled to right and stole second. Following a fly-out, freshman catcher Quinn Livesay, who had previously recorded a pair of hits, was intentionally walked. Up came sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Azevedo, whose base hit to center tied the game.

After the second out, sophomore right fielder Gemma Bulthuis reached on an infield single and Livesay came home to give V.C. its first lead of the contest. She would move to second on a wild pitch and junior third baseman Kyla Nunez-O’Leary was walked to load the bases. But a fielder’s choice ended any chance of adding insurance runs.

In the bottom of the seventh, Charis Chung was safe on an infield single. Then after Azevedo got the first two batters in the San Marino lineup to pop up and fly out respectively, she had Sammy Edmonds on a 1-2 count, which also included two foul balls. On the sixth pitch, Edmonds connected and was safe on an error. A second error allowed Chung to come all the way around to tie the game and send Edmonds to third. Four pitches later, and on a 1-2 count, Morgan Woodward’s base hit to right ended the game.

The Lady Crusaders, who finished the season at 9-12, found themselves down 3-0 after the first inning as the Titans collected four hits. A double play would end further damage and Azevedo retired six of the next seven she faced. Meanwhile, V.C. got on the board in the top of the third when a sacrifice fly from junior shortstop Katie Morewood scored sophomore center fielder Angie Pool, who was walked to begin the frame. After the Titans added to their lead, the Lady Crusaders made it 4-2 in the fifth when junior left fielder Alex Burgess-Allen doubled and scored on an infield single from Morewood.

One inning later, Bulthuis was safe on a fielder’s choice, moved to second on a groundout and came home when Pool was safe on San Marino’s third error.

“She comes through in the clutch and she scores that run,” Nichole McGahey said of Bulthuis. “Also, Gemma’s baserunning on that. That’s another area of growth for Gemma that she has been working on all season. Just to see her score from second on an error…was huge for her.”

Azevedo and Livesay each collected two hits as seven of the nine batters picked up a hit, but all nine reached base. V.C. also stranded nine batters on base and had a base runner in every inning except the first.

“I’m super proud of our team,” Nichole McGahey said. “They didn’t give up. It would have been really easy to just say,’ man, we’re already behind and San Marino is a great squad’. They could have easily hung their heads and they decided not to. They were going to fight back, and they were going to make the plays and answer back in the box. And they did that.”

The Lady Crusaders were a relatively young team this season with two seniors, four juniors, five sophomores and a freshman. But Nichole McGahey is already excited about the near future for the Lady Crusaders and feels the experience gained in this playoff game can only motivate the team to bigger and better things for 2019. And maybe V.C. won’t have to rely on a blue coin to get into the playoffs.

“I think this tells them that there’s hope, and that we fight back until the end,” she said. “We don’t give up. This team has been that this season.”