The mere fact that Santa Ana and Fullerton colleges advanced to the Southern California Regional softball final Sunday guaranteed each a berth in the state tournament next week.
Still, the Dons and the Hornets played Sunday at Golden West Ccollege as if it was the state final.
And Santa Ana, which finished second to champion Fullerton in the South Coast Conference, defeated the Hornets for the second time in as many days, 6-1, to win the Southern California championship.
The Dons won it with a five-run rally in the seventh.
With the score tied, 1-1, in the seventh, Santa Ana's Patty Felker singled. Tricia Saxton grounded out to Hornet pitcher Lisa Walczy, who was then pulled from the game. Margo Davis, Fullerton coach, inserted Hornet ace Lisa Fresquez, who had pitched the first five innings of the Hornets' 6-0 win against Moorpark earlier in the day. Fresquez walked Laura Janzen and Lesa Godfrey to load the bases with one out.
Sam Arledge then singled to center, knocking in Felker and advancing Janzen to third. Godfrey slid safely into second under the tag. While a Hornet infielder argued the umpire's decision, Janzen scored the inning's second run.
Alani Silva then tripled home Godfrey and Arledge for a 5-1 lead. A Fullerton error allowed Nelinda Barrera to reach first and Silva to score the inning's final run.
Even though the Dons waited until the last inning to clinch the championship, the tournament's most valuable pitcher, Silva, said her team wasn't worried about winning.
"We all hung in there and started hitting," said Silva, also the SCC's most valuable player for the second straight year. "I knew we could do it."
But Santa Ana took a while to get started. The Dons didn't get any hits in the first two innings as Fullerton took a 1-0 lead in the first. Hornet Debbie Ness walked and advanced to second on Carla Williams' sacrifice bunt. Darlene Trenary followed with a double to left field to score Ness.
In the third, Santa Ana's Arledge singled, advanced to second on Silva's single and was driven in by Barrera's single to tie the score at 1-1.
"I expected it to be a dog fight, and it was," said Jim Reach, Santa Ana coach.
Reach said he was pleased with the game's outcome, though he thought he took a gamble by pitching Silva the entire game. His alternative would have been to bring in his other ace, freshman Chris Makimoto, as relief in the later innings.
Davis' decision to replace Walczy in the deciding seventh inning backfired.
Normally Davis has her reserves warm up in the second, fourth and sixth innings, but Fresquez entered the game after skipping the last two warmups because she said she her arm was sore. Still, Davis didn't think she was taking a risk by pitching Fresquez.
"I didn't really feel it was a gamble," Davis said. "I wouldn't have done that if we had not already qualified for the state."
The four-team, double-elimination state tournament next weekend at Golden West College will pit two Northern California teams, Santa Ana and Fullerton against one another for the championship.
"We'll give them this one," Davis said, "but we're going to win the state."
Fullerton advanced to Sunday's final after handing Moorpark its second loss in the double-elimination tournament, 6-0. . . . Named to the all-tournament team were: 1B--Kelly Winn (Santa Ana); infielders--Debbie Ness (Fullerton), Val Douglas (Pasadena), Carla Williams (Fullerton), Liz Carter (Fullerton); outfielders--Darlene Trenary (Fullerton), Ro Courtney (Pasadena), Lesa Godfrey (Santa Ana), Frances Reed (Moorpark); utility--Chris Makimoto (Santa Ana); catchers--Debbie Schneider (Pasadena), Linda Barnes (Fullerton); pitchers--Lisa Fresquez (Fullerton), Nancy Cermack (Moorpark); most valuable player--Sam Aldredge (Santa Ana); most valuable pitcher--Alani Silva (Santa Ana).