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El Camino Claims 4th City Title : Silverman Needs Only One Run to Stop Canoga Park in Final

Times Staff Writer

In three playoff games leading to the City 4-A final, the El Camino Real High softball team outscored its opponents, 51-1. The Conquistadores, ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, had no such scoring outburst against Canoga Park on Wednesday, scoring just once at Cal State Northridge.

But that was enough to defeat the Hunters, 1-0, for El Camino Real’s unprecedented fourth straight City 4-A title. It was the Conquistadores’ 55th consecutive victory to give them a 19-0 record this season. The win also was the team’s third over West Valley League rival Canoga Park (16-4) this season.

“In the beginning of the year, we were a little shaky,” said El Camino Real senior Debbie Onestinghel. “We didn’t have the positions down, but we’ve really pulled together. I seriously didn’t expect it. But it feels great.”

Just as they did a year ago, the Conquistadores won the game in the first inning.

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With one out and one on, Stacy Trapp grounded into a force play and advanced to second on a single by Beth Silverman. Trapp then reached third when Stephanie Wukmir mishandled Onestinghel’s grounder and scored the only run of the game when Canoga Park catcher Paula Allen let a De Dow pitch get by her for a passed ball.

“Canoga Park came into the game with no pressure,” El Camino Real Coach Neils Ludlow said. “They came farther than anyone expected them to. We’ve only given up five runs in 19 games. We just try to keep the ball rolling.”

Silverman, the winning pitcher, made the one run stand up, outpitching Dow. Silverman kept the Hunters off balance, allowing only two hits while striking out seven. The sophomore right-hander, who won every game for El Camino Real this season, has not lost in two seasons.

“This meant a lot to me,” Silverman said. “But I think last year’s title meant more because I was a freshman starting on a varsity team. A lot of the pressure on me was taken off this year.”

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There were other problems for Silverman this season. She thought her physical problems were solved after she underwent surgery on both knees after her freshman season. And they were, until May 6. The Conquistadores defeated Canoga Park, 3-1, taking them out of the running for the West Valley League title, but in the process, they almost lost Silverman.

“I pinched a nerve in my shoulder against Canoga,” Silverman said. “The doctor said I shouldn’t play anymore.”

Instead, she underwent therapy and took some speed off her pitches.

“I had to play,” she said. “I eased up. I couldn’t throw as many inside pitches. It just started coming back to me.”

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Dow, a senior who pitched every inning for the Hunters this season, allowed two hits while striking out four. In 143 innings this season, she struck out 230 hitters and allowed only 39 hits. Still, she ended her high school career without a City title.

“I’m kind of relieved it’s over,” Dow said. “I felt more pressure last week in the semis because they were constantly getting on base.”

Canoga Park Coach Joey Nakasone will miss Dow next season.

“That kid is so mature,” Nakasone said. “She knows how to handle herself on the field and off the field.”

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Canoga Park biggest threat came in the first inning. Allen singled and advanced to third on an error and a groundout. Dow, who entered the game with a .593 batting average, struck out and Wukmir’s grounder to shortstop Darci Stehlik ended the inning.

Canoga Park threatened again in the seventh when Wukmir singled and stole second. One out later, Kim Ponder grounded out but Wukmir moved to third with two outs. Silverman then struck out Pam Washington on a 1-and-2 pitch to wrap up the Conquistadores’ title.

The Conquistadores return six starters next season in their quest for a fifth straight title.

“We’re riding the crest of a wave,” Ludlow said. “We just have to keep going.”

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The Conquistadores have developed the attitudes of winners.

“Sometimes the older players are more together,” Onestinghel said. “Everyone has learned to work as a team. We can do anything. The whole team feels that way.”


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