Paraclete High softball Coach Margaret Neill has been here before. Fact is, that's what frustrates her most.
Neill and the Spirits made their fifth appearance in a Southern Section championship game Saturday--and for the fifth time came away with the runner-up plaque instead of the first-place trophy.
"I'm gonna make a coffee table out of these plaques," joked Neill, after Cerritos Valley Christian defeated Paraclete, 5-1, in the Division V championship game at Mayfair Park.
Neill, who has guided the Spirits for 15 seasons, will remember her latest title-game loss as the most frustrating.
"I think this one more than any of the others, because I really thought we'd win (this time)," Neill said.
Susie Schoales and the Crusaders quickly changed her mind.
Schoales (16-2), a sophomore left-hander, threw a one-hitter, struck out seven and had two hits in three at-bats, including a two-run single in the seventh.
Cerritos Valley Christian put pressure on senior right-hander Jamie Johnston (18-6) throughout.
The Crusaders (24-3-1) scored all the runs they needed in the second inning on a two-out, bases-loaded double by Angela Robinson.
Robinson ripped a full-count pitch into center field where it barely eluded the glove of Sandy Holm, who was stretched out trying to make a waist-high grab on the run.
"Nine times out of 10 she catches that ball," Neill said.
Paraclete closed to 3-1 in the third when Alyson Martin scored on Ashley Gayer's single--the only Spirit hit.
Paraclete (24-6), winner of 16 consecutive High Desert League titles, threatened again in the sixth when Gayer drew a walk to lead off the inning.
Suzanne Bass followed with a bunt, which was fielded by third baseman Robinson, who threw out Gayer at second on a play in which Erin Fluck appeared to have slid her foot over the bag before she had the ball.
Later, with two out and runners at first and second, Schoales struck out Kristal Nessa to end the inning.
The Crusaders added two runs in the seventh on a bases-loaded single by Schoales.
For Gayer, who has signed a letter of intent with Indiana, it was a disappointing loss that ended a successful season.
"It didn't really seem like it was us out there," Gayer said. "We had some spectacular plays, but we didn't make some of the routine plays.
But, it's all part of the game I guess."