When it came time to hand out the individual awards to the Southern Section 4-A softball champions, they saved the last and longest ovation for Nicky Luce, the Cypress High School pitcher.
Luce threw a three-hit shutout, and Cypress cruised to a 5-0 victory over Thousand Oaks Saturday night at Mayfair Park, winning the 4-A championship for the second time in four years.
The Centurions also won the title in 1983.
Although fans in left field hung 12 Ks between an N-I-C and a Y, Luce actually finished with 11 strikeouts, which certainly sufficed.
Luce didn't allow a hit to anyone other than Julie Chellevold, the Thousand Oaks leadoff batter who went 3 for 3.
"I didn't really know who was who," Luce said. "She just had my number."
The victory was the 69th and final of Luce's three-year career at Cypress. She finished this season 21-5.
Cypress (22-8) took a 2-0 lead in the third inning and was never challenged seriously. Joanne Brodeur drove in two runs with a two-out double down the third-base line, scoring Diane Pohl and Luce. Pohl had walked, and Luce's hit to left-center was ruled a ground-rule double, stopping Pohl at third before Brodeur's double.
"The key was that our kids came out and hit the ball, and Nicky did her usual job," said Tom Farr, Cypress coach. "I didn't think it would be easy."
As it turned out, it was remarkably so.
"This is the type of pitcher--fastball, riseball--our kids can get on," Farr said of Thousand Oaks starter Shireen Campbell (13-7), who pitched five innings and took the loss. "It's the off-speed pitchers we have problems with."
Cypress could have gotten by with four fewer runs than it did, with Luce and the defense holding the Lancers (23-9) scoreless.
Thousand Oaks threatened in the first inning, advancing a runner as far as third with one out, but was unable to score. Chellevold led off the game with an infield single and stole second, going to third. But Luce struck out the next two batters, ending the inning.
Chellevold got as far as third again in the sixth, singling and going to third on an error, but Luce got out of the inning with a groundout.
Cypress advanced runners as far as third base in every inning after the first.
In the second, Thousand Oaks center fielder Shani Smith prevented a run when she threw out Karen Kuyper at the plate on Heidi Heim's attempted sacrifice fly. Kuyper reached on a fielder's choice, advancing to third on two wild pitches.
But Thousand Oaks couldn't stop the Centurions in the sixth, as they scored three runs on two hits, two errors and a walk.