For the past couple of seasons, the Sunset League softball championship seemed that it would inevitably come down to Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos.
When the Oilers began the season by winning their first nine games, it appeared as though this year might not be any different.
The Sunset League was among the best leagues in Orange County, but with the formation of the Surf League, there are no breaks in the schedule at all.
Huntington Beach beat Los Alamitos handily in the league opener. Hampered by injuries, the Oilers proceeded to drop four of their next five games.
On Tuesday night, the situation felt unfamiliar, as it was the host Oilers who found themselves in a must-win scenario against Marina.
Grace Uribe threw a complete game with eight strikeouts to lead the Oilers to a 4-2 victory over the Vikings in a Surf League game at home.
Uribe, a Texas A&M commit, also went two for two.
“Every game is a must-win game right now,” Uribe said. “Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few key players, and we’re just working on that. I actually think that we hit really well, but usually our dugout is more on fire and we bring more energy to the table.
“I definitely think that every game right now is crucial.”
Oilers coach Jeff Forsberg said that his team has played one game this season with its original starting lineup. It will remain so, as starting first baseman Kelly Ryono underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in her left shoulder.
Huntington Beach sustained another injury on Tuesday. Right fielder Shelbi Ortiz rolled her ankle running through the first-base bag in her first plate appearance. She was carried off the field.
“The best thing for us, if we can just get healthy bodies back, we’ve got the pitching,” Forsberg said. “We have the depth.
“We can play when we have everyone healthy, but the ones that have helped us get the healthy ones back have done a great job.”
Marina (14-6, 3-2 in league), the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll, remains in first place, although it is even in the win column with Huntington Beach (11-4, 3-3) and tied in the loss column with Los Alamitos (11-4, 2-2).
Jenna Bloom struck out 14 in a 6-0 win for Edison (13-6, 2-3) over visiting Los Alamitos, further tightening the league standings.
“Whoever is going to be 5-4 will probably win league,” Forsberg chuckled while only half joking. “Every team is great. It’s fun.
“We told these kids, ‘It’s a nine-game playoff season.’ It’s like the old World Series.”
Taylor Lane’s two-run home run for Marina in the third inning tied the score at 2-2. The sophomore second baseman’s shot landed on top of the solar panels in the parking lot beyond the left-field fence.
Huntington Beach was quick to the answer, reestablishing its two-run lead in the fourth inning. Valerie Rudd, Reanna Rudd and Jadelyn Allchin all had doubles in the inning.
“I saw her on base, and I knew that something big had to happen,” Reanna Rudd said of driving in her sister, Valerie, to give the Oilers the lead. “I just did my best to put it in play on the ground, and I switched off with Val.
“I really think that it got us rolling again after we gave up that home run. It just put us right back on track.”
Reanna Rudd went three for three with two runs batted in. Malia Cockrell and Allchin both had run-scoring doubles.
Carlie Hoetker singled and Briana Gonzalez walked to put the tying runs on base for Marina in the top of the seventh. The Vikings learned the true meaning of softball being a game of inches when Nicole Logrecco lifted a ball out of the reach of the left fielder Cockrell. It landed just foul, and Logrecco grounded out to first base later in the at-bat.