Down to potentially the last out of the game, and its season Tuesday, the Edison softball team showed its character by putting together a final rally that created some anxious moments for Santiago of Corona in the semifinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 softball playoffs.
Trailing by five runs, the sixth-ranked Chargers used back-to-back home runs to pull within two, but had their spirited comeback fall short on an outstanding catch in center field that ended the game. That diving catch by Brittany Abacherli sewed up a 6-4 victory for the 10th-ranked Sharks. It also sent the division's defending champions, who ran their win streak to nine, on to the championship game. They will face top-ranked and Big VIII League rival Norco for the title this weekend.
Edison, which ran up a program-record 26 victories, finished 26-5.
"We started hitting the ball, but it was too late," Edison Coach Josh Musselman said. "The girls never gave up. We got those two big hits (home runs) but we didn't have timely hitting early on, and that cost us."
Edison, which took a 1-0 lead after three innings, trailed, 6-1, with two out in the bottom of the seventh. Junior Karley Wester, whose sacrifice fly in the third scored junior Carissa Sherman for the game's first run, kept the Chargers' hopes alive by lacing a single into left field. That brought Mercedes O'Connor to the plate and the senior, who will play next year at BYU, took a 1-0 pitch for a two-run home run that made it a 6-3 game.
"It stayed over the plate," O'Connor said of the pitch she belted for her two-run shot. "Every time I was at the plate today, I just knew that I would put the ball somewhere. The entire season, I'd been in somewhat of a slump but I started coming out of it late in the season. I was glad that I was able to keep us in the game."
Clean-up hitter Jessica Plaza then obliterated a 1-1 pitch by the Sharks' Erica Romero well beyond the fence in left field, her home run drawing the Chargers to within 6-4. The game was back on.
"I was just trying to help my team any way that I could," said Plaza who will play softball next year at Stanford. "It's tough to lose this one but I ended my senior year with a bang."
Senior captain Casey Africano followed Plaza and sent a hit into shallow center field. The ball looked as though it was going to drop but Abacherli raced up to make a diving catch on the run. Game over.
It also ended a rocky finish for Santiago head coach John Perez.
"It's always nerve-racking, all the way until the final out," Perez said. "Edison's a very good ball club. I have the utmost respect for them. They never gave up."
Edison took a 1-0 lead when Sherman led-off the bottom of the third with a single. One out later, she scored on Wester's sacrifice fly. That lead stood until the fifth, where Santiago (23-9) took the lead for good. A double to left field by Jordon Mowatt brought in Dakota Matiko for the tying run, and Mowatt scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice ground out by Nicole Orozco. Erin Rodriguez then hammered a two-out, two-run home run to deep center field, to send the Sharks into a 4-1 lead.
Santiago also scored two more runs with two out in the top of the sixth. An RBI single to center field by Alex Vargas, followed by an RBI triple off the wall in right field by Mowatt, took the score to 6-1.
Edison had seven hits off Romero who went the distance. The junior also walked one, hit two batters and struck out six. The Chargers stranded seven base runners.
Sammy Cordova went the distance for Edison and ended her outstanding campaign at 25-5. The Sharks struck late, getting 10 of their 12 hits off the junior over the final three innings. Cordova struck out four and walked two.
"I can't say enough about Sammy," Musselman said. "I'm so proud of her and what she did this season. She's a true, true warrior."
Edison steam rolled its way into the division semifinals after taking down third-ranked and Trinity League champion Orange Lutheran, 6-0, May 24 on the Lancers? home field. The Chargers had 10 hits off Lancers ace Jade Vecvanags (19-2) and reliever Madison Osias. Africano went two for four with a home run and double and drove in two runs. Plaza homered, walked twice and had two RBIs, Wester went three for four and scored twice, and freshman lead-off hitter Ali Wester and seniors Maddy Hickman and Megan Feuerstein each had a hit.
The six runs were the most given up this year by the Lancers who also were shut out for the first time this season. Cordova took that honor by throwing a six-hitter with three walks and five strikeouts for a complete-game victory.
Edison had cruised through the first three rounds of the Division 1 playoffs, winning its first three games by shutout and outscored its opponents, 25-0. In addition to the win over Orange Lutheran, the Chargers started the postseason May 17 with a 6-0 victory over Murrieta Valley (Southwestern No. 3), then blanked Canyon of Anaheim (Century League No. 2), 13-0, on May 22.
"This is the most successful season in school history for the program, and the girls have a lot to be proud of," Musselman said. "I always knew this team could become a great team, and it has. We went up against the defending CIF champs today and just came up a little short."