Under the right circumstance, Huntington Beach High softball coach Jeff Forsberg might have said that a rematch against top-seeded Norco was exactly what he wanted.
Last season, the Oilers reached their first CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinal. The storied campaign came to an end with a 6-5 loss at Norco in nine innings, a game that was marred by a controversial ruling on obstruction.
After finishing in a tie for third place in the Surf League and needing to receive an at-large berth into the playoffs this season, Forsberg has more of a happy-go-lucky attitude about his team’s run this year.
“We’re just happy to be playing,” Forsberg said. “I mean, we didn’t even know if we were going to get in, right?
“We’re excited to get a home game [in the semifinals]. We’re excited. If it’s Norco, that’s awesome. They’re the best team. We want to be the best team. We’ve got to beat the best team.”
Huntington Beach defeated Chino Hills 3-1 on Thursday afternoon, advancing to its first Division 1 semifinal in school history.
The Oilers (18-8) will get their shot at revenge in a home game on Tuesday against Norco (29-1), which went on to win the Division 1 championship last season. The Cougars defeated Orange Lutheran 9-0 in their quarterfinal game.
“We proved ourselves last year, and it was only one call away,” Oilers left fielder Valerie Rudd said. “I feel like we can prove ourselves again this year because in our league, we didn’t prove ourselves that much.”
Given the chance to play in the postseason, Huntington Beach has not disappointed. Starting pitcher Grace Uribe has been able to hold opponents down in the low-scoring contests against No. 4-seeded Grand Terrace in the first round and against Chino Hills (28-5) on Thursday.
Uribe held the Huskies, who scored 15 runs in their second-round game versus Ventura Buena on Tuesday, to one unearned run on four hits.
Huntington Beach led 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning when the Huskies had their best chance to put runs on the board. Kiana Estrada reached on an error to start the inning.
At the end of a seven-pitch at-bat, Kayla Chavez hit a deep fly ball that Oilers center fielder Jadelyn Allchin was able to track down at the wall.
Later in the inning, Mykenzie Hanna singled and advanced to second on a throwing error by Rudd, putting runners at second and third with one out. Uribe struck out Payton Kelly to get the second out.
Then Madeline Barnes roped a single to left. The Huskies sent Hanna as the trail runner, and Rudd’s throw home was in time to cut down the tying run.
“I don’t really think about the throw when I’m throwing home,” Rudd said. “I just know where to go. I tried to clean up my own mess, and it ended up working out in my favor.”
Huntington Beach added to its lead in the seventh inning, but not without more quarterfinals controversy. Allchin struck a line drive to right field, but she hit the ball so hard that it got to Kelly before she had taken two steps out of the batter’s box.
“I felt safe, but everyone else was like, ‘Ah, you’re out,’” Allchin said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know at this point.’”
Kelly’s throw appeared to reach first baseman Brooke Johnson before Allchin stepped on the bag. Allchin, who had three hits and three stolen bases in the contest, eventually scored when Reanna Rudd’s chopper evaded Chavez at third base.
“It cost a run,” Huskies coach Mike Southworth said. “You don’t know what is going to happen in the bottom [half of the seventh], but it changes your offensive approach if you were to get runners on, everything.
“It was a horrible call. It was a poor call, but even at that, we were still losing.”
The Oilers also scored one run in the third and fourth innings. Allchin led off the third inning with a single, and she came in to score on an infield single by Devyn Greer.
In the fourth, Ameryn Humble doubled and scored on a single up the middle by Allchin.
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.