La Cañada softball stunned by Arroyo in first-round playoff defeat

Down seven runs entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the prospect of a comeback appeared extremely bleak for the La Cañada High softball team.

Competing in a CIF Southern Section Division IV first-round home game against Arroyo on Thursday, La Cañada found itself in a huge hole that it nearly climbed out of.

With the tying run at the plate with one out, the comeback bid was foiled, resulting in La Cañada’s season concluding with an 8-5 defeat.

Arroyo (15-7-1) will meet Montclair in a second-round game Tuesday. La Cañada, which won the Rio Hondo League championship and entered the postseason riding a six-game winning streak, finished at 17-5.

“We had some chances earlier in the game and couldn’t capitalize,” La Cañada Coach Chuck Gunter said. “Still, we gave ourselves a chance in the end with the tying run at the plate. I liked the way we stayed with it right through the last at-bat.

“It’s tough to lose, but it’s a great group of players and it will be some more good experience for the players we have coming back next season.”

The Spartans had runners on first and second with one away in the seventh before reliever Grace Acero came in and struck out the final two batters.

“We just tried to keep getting people on base and chip away when we could,” said Spartans junior second baseman Alexis Abboud, who finished with three hits and a run. “It’s hard to come back when you are down seven runs going into the last inning, but we gave ourselves a shot.

“We had to keep battling through the last at-bat.

“I think we improved a lot as a team this year. We had a lot of players who improved individually.”

La Cañada cut the deficit to 8-2 on a run-scoring triple by Maddy Reilly. A fielder’s choice by Taryn Harris made it 8-3 and two more runs scored following an error by the shortstop to bring the Spartans to within 8-5.

Arroyo starting pitcher Arianna Amezcua walked Annette Figueroa to put runners on first and second. Acero then got the final two outs to seal the victory for the Knights, who finished second in the Mission Valley League.

“We really didn’t know what to expect coming into the playoffs,” Arroyo Coach Laura Purcell said. “We got those five runs in the third and they turned out to be big. We just needed to go out there and make some things happen. Our starting pitcher did what she needed to do.”

Arroyo scored five runs in the third to build a 5-0 lead.

Shynia Torrez made it 1-0 with a run-scoring single against pitcher Holly Stoner and the Knights extended the lead to 2-0 on a bunt single. Briana Lexy Rios hit a three-run home run to left to bring the advantage to 5-0.

The Spartans trimmed the deficit to 5-1 in the third when Amezcua hit Emily Tinkham with a pitch with the bases loaded to score Kathleen Knudsen.

The Knights got run-scoring singles in the sixth from Irene Huizar and Katelynn Barber to make it 7-1 before getting another run in the seventh on a groundout by Rios.

Arroyo received two hits each from Torrez and Arianna Ledesma.

La Cañada finished with seven hits.

charles.rich@latimes.com

Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich

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