Hitless in her first five appearances Wednesday, Mater Dei High’s Theresa Conway punctuated each at-bat by slamming her helmet against her team’s bench in frustration.
Helmet on wood was not the resounding thud that silenced Simi Valley fans in the 10th inning of a Southern Section 5-A Division softball quarterfinal, however. It was the crack of a Conway single that drove in the winning run and lifted Mater Dei to a 3-2 victory over Simi Valley at Rancho Simi Park.
“I hadn’t really made my contribution,” said Conway, a senior who extended her hitting streak to seven games. “I had to go out with a bang, if anything.”
The two-out hit, which drove in Tina Fuata, negated a dramatic seventh-inning comeback by Simi Valley.
With the Pioneers trailing, 2-0, Amy Hood led off by reaching base on an error. After Erika Rustan grounded out, Beth Naples singled up the middle. Amy Powell then grounded out, advancing Naples to second while Hood remained at third. Gina Skinner followed with a double down the third-base line, forging a 2-2 tie. The rally ended when Taina Tande popped out.
Consecutive singles to lead off the eighth put Simi Valley runners at first and second but Mater Dei pitcher Jennifer Clark retired the next three batters. The Pioneers had another chance in the ninth, but Naples was thrown out at second after trying to take an extra base.
Simi Valley Coach Suzanne Manlet said the Pioneers showed their inexperience. Two freshmen and five sophomores start for Simi Valley.
“We win and lose as a team,” said Manlet, whose team committed six errors. “It’s just going to take a little experience to get over the bumps.”
Mater Dei, seeded fourth in the 5-A, was in a position in the early innings to deliver a few more bumps. The Monarchs scored a run in the first but left the bases loaded.
They stranded a runner at second in the next inning and, in the third, failed to score despite again loading the bases.
In the fifth, Mater Dei’s Amy Moeller followed consecutive strikeouts with a triple. Amy Godwin hit a hard grounder to short that was bobbled by Tande. Moeller scored on the error, increasing the Monarchs’ lead to 2-0.
Mater Dei Coach Cathy Quesnell was frustrated by the sporadic offense against starting pitcher Michelle Castanguay (10-4), who was replaced by Heather Santiago in the fourth after an erratic performance.
Quesnell expected the hard-throwing Santiago to start. Two months ago, Mater Dei beat Santiago, 2-1, in an eight-inning game in the Canyon tournament that was decided by a tiebreaker.
“That threw me for a loop. It was a shock,” Quesnell said of the decision to start Castanguay, noting that Mater Dei batters were caught off guard by the softer pitches. “We struggle with slow pitchers. As soon as a fast pitcher comes up, that’s what they’re used to.”
Simi Valley finished with eight hits, Mater Dei had seven.
Clark (15-1), a freshman, earned the victory. Three times--including in the 10th inning--she retired the side in order.
“She’s really composed,” Quesnell said. “But you can see worry across her forehead. She’s grown up at least four years on the mound.”