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El Camino Real Takes 4-A Title : Conquistadores Hit Bautista Hard in a 3-Run First Inning

Times Staff Writer

Karen Walker and her El Camino Real High teammates had noticed a trend in batters who had failed to hit safely off Banning’s Lisa Bautista this season.

“They were in the back of the batter’s box,” Walker said, “looking for the home run. We moved up in the box and just tried to poke at the ball.”

By moving up, El Camino moved to the top. Again.

The Conquistadores collected three runs and four hits off Bautista in the first inning Wednesday and went on to defeat the Pilots, 3-0, at South Gate Park for their third consecutive City 4-A softball championship.

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Freshman Beth Silverman limited the Pilots to five hits in improving her record to 15-0. El Camino, which has won its last 34 games, finished the season 19-0.

El Camino’s strategy paid off from the beginning. Walker led off the bottom of the first inning with a single up the middle off Bautista, who had entered the game with a 21-3 record and 17 no-hitters.

Walker took second on Bautista’s wild pitch, third on an error and scored when Bautista threw another wild pitch.

Two outs later, Sabrina Kuhn tripled home Stacy Trapp, then scored on Darci Stehlik’s single to make it 3-0 El Camino.

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It could have been worse. Two of El Camino’s outs that inning were made while running the bases.

“I was nervous, very nervous in the first inning,” Bautista said. “My pitches were flat.”

Bautista’s pitches weren’t the only things that deflated in the first inning.

“The team was a little down,” Bautista said. “We’re not used to people scoring on us like that.”

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Bautista shook off the effects of the first inning, allowing just three more hits the rest of the game. But the first inning proved too much for the Pilots, who ended the season at 21-4.

“Once we got the three runs,” El Camino Coach Neils Ludlow said, “I knew we had a great cushion.”

Banning threatened on several occasions, but never could get the key hit off Silverman.

“They had a lot of runners on,” Ludlow said, “but (Beth) came through like a champ.”

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In the first, Banning had runners at second and third with one out. Silverman then struck out the next two.

In the fourth, the Pilots put runners at first and second with no outs, but failed to move them along.

In the fifth, Banning’s Susan Miller reached first when second baseman Christy Vroman dropped a popup. Cynthia Madrid, who had three of Banning’s five hits, then singled to right.

The Pilots suddenly had two on with no out. They just as quickly were heading for their defensive positions as Silverman retired the next three batters.

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Silverman breezed through the final two innings, allowing just a single by Miller in the seventh.

When Martinez grounded out to first baseman Trapp, the Conquistadores were champions again.

“This one is probably the sweetest,” said Walker, a member of the two previous title teams. “And not just because I’m a senior. People didn’t think we would do well because we had lost Laurie (Romero).”

Romero was last season’s City Player of the Year after pitching the Conquistadores to the championship. Romero, who moved on to Florida State, was 37-1 at El Camino.

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But Silverman took over on the mound and pitched the Conquistadores into the final, where she was matched against the highly publicized Bautista.

That inspired the ninth-grader.

“It made us want to hit her more and show her who’s No. 1,” Silverman said.

Bautista has no doubts now.

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