IRVINE — For two teams that scored runs in bushels and had yet to yield a run throughout the playoffs, one trend figured to dissolve when the Bellarmine-Jefferson High and Pomona Catholic softball squads participated in the CIF Southern Section Division VII championship game Friday afternoon.
Entering the contest, the teams combined to outscore their playoff opponents,159-0.
What Bell-Jeff hadn't counted on was seeing its power shut off by Pomona Catholic starting pitcher Amber Padilla in its quest to win the program's first CIF title. Unfortunately for the Guards, they fell victim to a masterpiece tossed by Padilla.
Padilla pitched a perfect game to spark top-seeded Pomona Catholic to a 1-0 victory against second-seeded Bell-Jeff at Deanna Manning Stadium.
Pomona Catholic (27-7) defeated Bell-Jeff (23-6-2) to win the title for the second consecutive season and program's sixth overall championship. The Pacers scored in the top of the first inning and then watched Padilla handcuff the Guards.
"It's tough to get this close and it comes down to a one-run game," said Bell-Jeff Coach Florencio Galindo, whose team scored 56 runs in its first four playoff contests. "It's tough to swallow, but Amber hit her spots and give her credit.
"I honestly thought we'd have a chance to score a run or win it going into our last at-bat. We didn't make the adjustments and we could never get our offense going."
Padilla struck out eight and only two Bell-Jeff batters hit the ball out of the infield.
"I would have liked to have had a bit more [run production]," said Padilla, a senior. "The last inning was so nerve-wracking and that's a very, very good team.
"I kind of looked back [at the scoreboard] and I didn't want to say [anything about the perfect game]."
The Guards, who were looking to win the school's third CIF championship since the school opened in 1944, couldn't catch up to Padilla's rise ball. That left them flustered with each passing inning.
Bell-Jeff starting pitcher Mia Acosta turned in an excellent performance in the circle, striking out four and yielding just six hits.
The sophomore right-hander, who transferred from Birmingham High, encountered some difficulty in the first inning before settling down nicely. With one out, Acosta walked Victoria Givens and then yielded a single to Padilla. Ashley Montion then singled to score Givens.
"It was my best game and I wasn't nervous," Acosta said. "I didn't do what I had to do and I had a pitched that slipped [to Montion].
"[Padilla] knows how to throw good outside pitches and she knew where to throw them."
Acosta retired the next eight batters she faced before getting into a jam in the fourth. Montion led off with a single and Kaitlyn Garza dropped down a perfect bunt single. After Autumn Bartholomy laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third, Acosta got Vanessa Juarez out when second baseman Tiffany Galindo scooped up a grounder and fired home, as catcher Sofia Palacios applied the tag for the second out. Acosta walked Allison Montion before getting Sarah Diaz on a come-backer for the final out.
The Pacers, who won the Arrowhead League championship before recording postseason victories against Santa Clarita Christian, Liberty Christian, St. Matthias and Mesa Grande Academy, had a runner on second with two outs in the seventh when Sarah Guillen hit a hard grounder up the middle. However, Bell-Jeff shortstop Monique Landini made a diving stop to keep the ball in the infield and save a potential Pomona Catholic run.
Down to their last three outs, Padilla then got two line-outs and one fly ball to turn back the Guards, who suffered a 7-6 loss to the Pacers in the championship game last season.
"There's lots of emotion and things happen for a reason," said Bell-Jeff left fielder Priscilla Panizo, who hit a fly ball to center in the third. "It hurts to lose the first time and the second time is even tougher.
"We tried to make things happen, but it didn't work out. We will be back next year."
Bell-Jeff, which won the Santa Cruz League championship, and Pomona Catholic are slated to move to Division VI next season.
"Mia pitched a phenomenal game," said Florencio Galindo, whose team notched playoff wins against California School of the Deaf, Animo Leadership, Bloomington Christian and Rolling Hills Prep. "She held a team that was averaging more than 20 runs per playoff game to one run. We just came up two runs short."