After nine innings, the 21st Orange County Softball Coaches All-Star Classic did not produce a winner.
But the nine local high school seniors involved came out feeling like winners for being selected to play in the game.
The players from the area represented the Green team, which played to a 1-1 tie with the Orange team on Tuesday night at Deanna Manning Stadium of Bill Barber Park in Irvine.
“It’s definitely an honor to just play with people who are going to go on and play at the next level,” Costa Mesa shortstop Katie Belmontes said. “Just to be around people who know the game the way that I do, or understand it the way that I do, it’s amazing.”
Edison outfielder Jaelyn Operana put on a show in right field in the early innings. The Orange team loaded the bases with nobody out in the first inning. Cleanup hitter Samantha Ferguson of Kennedy then drove the ball to the opposite field, but Operana made a diving catch with her back to home plate.
The lead runners had taken off, and the Green team turned a triple play to get out of the inning without any runs scoring. Belmontes had the relay throw to Brea Olinda third baseman Nicole Stark.
Operana saved another run with a diving catch to end the second inning. She caught a line drive off the bat of Kennedy’s Makenna O’Toole with Santa Margarita’s Miranda Johnson on second base.
Belmontes recorded the other two defensive putouts in the second inning for the Green team.
Ferguson would have her revenge. She led off the fourth inning with a double to left field off Los Alamitos’ Sarah Ladd. Woodbridge’s Kate Lim came on to pinch-run, and she eventually scored when Marina shortstop Nicole Logrecco ran into shallow left field to chase down a foul out by Johnson that turned into a sacrifice fly.
Edison’s Jenna Bloom came on in the fifth inning. She kept the Orange team’s lead at just 1-0, even after La Habra’s Naya Pola singled and got all the way to third base on a two-base error by the aggressively charging Operana.
Bloom struck out the next two batters, and she retired Lim on a pop-up to second base.
The Arkansas-bound right-hander went a game-high three innings in the pitching circle, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out five.
Marina’s Shayla Thomas, a Cal State Northridge signee, got the Green team even at 1-1 with a well-struck triple to left field in the bottom of the sixth.
“Honestly, I just had fun at the plate,” Thomas said. “My first at-bat, I didn’t do so well, so I kind of just left it all out there.”
Thomas said she carried the same mentality into her last at-bat of the All-Star game as she did her last plate appearance in her senior day game against Los Alamitos, when she hit a home run off the scoreboard in left field at home.
“This is going to be one of my last at-bats as a high school player, so I might as well just do it,” Thomas said.
Although she had her ups and downs in the game, Operana, who has signed with Tennessee, felt privileged to play in the game.
“It was honestly a game I was kind of waiting for since my freshman year,” Operana said. “I’ve had a lot of friends who are in college who played in this game.”
With 11 Surf League representatives on the Green team, it showed how talented the league was this season.
Operana said that she was a proponent of the new Sunset Conference structure that pitted the top four teams against each other in the Surf League. Marina split the league title with Los Alamitos, while Edison shared third place with Huntington Beach. But only the Vikings, Griffins and Oilers made the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
“I liked the challenge,” Operana said of the league. “It was almost like a mini-World Series every time you played.”
Huntington Beach’s Megan Ryono singled in the seventh inning. Jadelyn Allchin and Kelly Ryono were also selected as All-Stars for the Oilers.
Edison’s Serena Starks had a stolen base.
Marina co-coaches Dan Hay and Shelly Luth were also named as coaches for the Green team.
Prior to the game, the 2019 class of the Orange County Softball Hall of Fame was introduced. The new inductees were Woodbridge pitcher Jenny Allard (1982-1986), La Habra catcher Jenny Topping (1995-1998), Foothill shortstop Michelle Churnock (1991-1995), Irvine pitcher Jennifer Brundage (1988-1991), Kennedy catcher Deanna Mays-Gumpf (1986-1988), Mater Dei pitcher Marissa Young (1996-1999), Kennedy coach Susan Hall (1987-2003), and Jami Shannon, who coached at Los Alamitos from 1978-99 and at Kennedy from 2003-08.
A moment of silence was also held before first pitch for the late Mark Campbell, who was well-known as a coach for Pacifica and the O.C. Batbusters travel team. Campbell, 57, died on March 18.
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