In high-leverage situations, most coaches would prefer to enlist the assistance of their veterans to get the job done.
The late innings of a softball game come down to trust, and Ocean View High coach Liberty McCollum knew that she could trust senior third baseman Caitlyn Sideris to do what she had in mind.
An easterly wind, coming in from right field, had howled all Tuesday afternoon, making it difficult to drive the ball out of the infield. The Seahawks had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh, trailing by one run.
McCollum just wanted to get the game tied up. Sideris squared around to bunt. The pitch came in high and went to the backstop, allowing the tying run to score and the winning run to move up to third base.
The play call remained the same. Sideris showed bunt again, and this time she got it down, allowing Ari Hencke to come in to score.
A simple matter of execution delivered Ocean View's first runs of the game, and the host Seahawks walked off on Sideris' safety squeeze for a 2-1 victory over Goleta Dos Pueblos in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.
Ocean View (13-8) travels to face Studio City Harvard-Westlake (9-7-1) in a first-round game on Thursday at 3:15 p.m.
"I've coached her for four years," McCollum said of Sideris. "I know what she is capable of. I knew with two strikes on her that I was still going to squeeze it because I knew that she was going to get it down."
The Seahawks were three outs away from sustaining a second straight shutout loss in the wild-card round.
Then the Seahawks got their leadoff hitter to reach for the first time in the game. Junior second baseman Cailey Collado beat out an infield single to give her team hope.
Action on the bases wreaked havoc. Hencke laid down a bunt. The Chargers looked to cut down the lead runner, and no out was recorded. Kim MacPherson followed with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third.
Sideris said the thought of last year's 3-0 defeat to visiting Oxnard Pacifica to open the playoffs crept into her mind as the Seahawks struggled to get anything going offensively. She was thrilled to have an opportunity to change that in her final at-bat.
"It's like the moment you always dream of," Sideris said. "Knowing that it could potentially be my last at-bat, I just wanted to give it my effort and do the simple things that I need to do to help my team win."
Dos Pueblos (15-11) took the lead in the first inning when Talia Bloxham singled with the bases loaded. MacPherson, the Seahawks' senior center fielder, threw out Nova Sinskul at the plate to end the inning.
MacPherson added another outfield assist to end the top of the seventh.
"It's all trust," MacPherson said of her ability to throw out aggressive baserunners. "I trust [catcher] Po [Russ] completely, and I trust Caitlyn completely. I know that all I have to do is get it there, and they're going to make that play for me."
Freshman shortstop Haley Hoskin turned a 6-3 double play, and she made another putout on a ground ball that ricocheted off freshman pitcher Desyree Arizmendi.
Hencke made a pair of sliding grabs in left field.
Arizmendi threw a complete game, allowing five hits and striking out three. She appreciated the defense behind her.
"It was definitely a team effort," said Arizmendi, who was in a pitchers' duel with Bloxham (11 strikeouts, four hits). "I just have to do my job and hit Po, my catcher. Make sure that I get my pitches down so that I can let my defense do the work."