VILLA PARK – Marina High's softball team played in its first postseason game in three seasons on Thursday afternoon, but the Vikings had little time to enjoy the moment.
The opportunity to score runs was there in the first two innings for Villa Park, and that was all the North Hills League champions would need to advance.
Jolie Grant’s three-run home run put Marina in a hole early, and the Vikings fell to the Spartans, 7-1, in a
Emily Rush drew the start for the Vikings (14-14). The freshman had authored five of the team's six wins in Sunset League action, a big reason why the young right-hander got the call over senior Amber Baldwin.
Seven batters into the game, however, the Vikings found themselves facing a 5-0 deficit. Casey Moritz struck a hard double to the opposite field to open the scoring. It sailed over the head of left-fielder Paige Shafer to the wall, scoring Amanda Campos.
Mackenzie Boglin doubled the Spartans' lead with a single.
Rush recorded a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but Grant's home run to left put Marina in dire straits right away.
A pair of walks sandwiched around a double by Campos in the second led to two more runs coming across for Villa Park (22-8).
"We started Emily because she helped us get to this point," Vikings coach Mandee Farish said. "She was 5-2 in league, had a great year. Whatever the problem was today, they just came out and they hit the ball hard. They were barreling up balls."
Baldwin had dealt with back issues all season, but when she entered the game, she was as effective as she had been all year.
The senior threw four scoreless innings, scattering four hits and striking out two. From this outing, some may have wondered what Marina's season would have looked like had the team's original battery stayed intact, and healthy, for the duration of the season.
Baldwin and catcher Ryan King have both signed to play with Middle Tennesee State in college. They also play club softball with the Firecrackers organization.
"She catches me for travel ball," Baldwin said as both players fought back tears. "She's my best friend on and off the field, and it was awesome for us to finish as pitcher and catcher."
As for King, she looks forward to what the future will bring.
"We're just excited," she said. "Like she said, she's my best friend. We work well together, and I'm excited for college."
The Vikings offense sputtered against Villa Park starter Emily Rosas. The junior went the distance, allowing five hits and one earned run. She struck out five and did not issue a walk.
Marina had a chance to get back into the game in the third. Shafer and Carlie Hoetker singled to start the inning. Nicole Logrecco reached on an error, and the Vikings had the bases loaded with nobody out.
Jennifer Swartz grounded into a fielder's choice to score Shafer. Shayla Thomas' comebacker to Rosas did not result in another run, and King grounded out to short to end the threat.
Farish called an offensive timeout while the inning was still alive. She spoke on the strategy after the game.
"(Rosas) was keeping us off balance a lot with her changeup," Farish said. "It was a very good offspeed pitch. First pitch, second pitch, it didn't matter.
"I just said, 'If you see a pitch, you got to hit it. You got to jump on one of the first pitches that she gives you for strikes.' Once she got us in an 0-2 hole, it was really hard to battle back and hit something hard."
The Vikings put the first pitch in play in 11 of their at-bats. Nine of those resulted in outs.
Swartz, Rush, Shafer, Hoetker, and Jacey Henderson had the hits for Marina.
Campos and Moritz had two-hit games for the Spartans.
Villa Park will play Agoura in the second round on Tuesday.
CIF-SS Division 2 Playoffs
Villa Park 7, Marina 1
Mar 001 000 0 – 1 5 1
VP 520 000 X – 7 9 1
Rush, Baldwin (3) and King; Rosas and Boglin. WP – Rosas. LP – Rush. 2B – Moritz (VP), Campos (VP). HR – Grant (VP).