Newport Harbor second baseman Lindsey Blanchfield tags out Corona del Mar’s Sophia Grigoriou.(Jeff Antenore)
Corona del Mar’s Jaidyn Gibson hits the ball during an 8-2 win on Saturday.(Jeff Antenore)
Corona del Mar’s Sophia Skerik ties the ball to first base for a single during Saturday’s tournament game against Newport Harbor.(Jeff Antenore)
Newport Harbor’s Eliana Gottlieb slides safely into home plate, avoiding the tag from Corona del Mar catcher Trasara Alexander.(Jeff Antenore)
Clare Austin pitches for Newport Harbor on Saturday.(Jeff Antenore)
Corona del Mar’s Sophia Skerik pitches during an 8-2 win in the final game of the Battle at the Beach Tournament.(Jeff Antenore)
Newport Harbor’s McKayla Cotton hits the ball against Corona del Mar on Saturday, March 16, 2019.(Jeff Antenore)
Corona del Mar’s Jordan Davis slides safely into home plate during an 8-2 win in the final game of the Battle at the Beach Tournament on Saturday, March 16, 2019.(Jeff Antenore)
Corona del Mar High softball coach Jordann Wakabayashi is in her fifth year with the program, but she has done some research on its history.
Wakabayashi said to her knowledge, the Sea Kings played in their first tournament championship game in program history when they battled rival Newport Harbor on Saturday in the “Battle at the Beach” title game.
Corona del Mar was up to the challenge.
The Sea Kings erupted for seven runs in the sixth inning and won 8-2 at Thurston Middle School in Laguna Beach, making history against their rivals.
The only complaint Wakabayashi could have was that she demanded her players take their visors off for the postgame picture with the championship plaque, to limit shadows in the warm late-afternoon sun.
“It’s a big moment for the program,” Wakabayashi said. “It’s a big moment for these guys. I think that they really proved a lot to themselves today, especially after having to deal with Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos on Tuesday and Thursday [in 15-1 and 13-1 Sunset Conference crossover game losses].”
Junior pitcher Sophia Skerik got the win for CdM (10-4), throwing the complete game and allowing two runs on seven hits. She walked two and struck out four, and was also three for four at the plate.
Trasara Alexander and Christina Bigi each had two hits for the Sea Kings.
Skerik is nicknamed “Canada” by her teammates just because that’s the country she’s from, as she moved from Vancouver last year. She got out of danger in the bottom of the first inning, even after Kendall Kelly singled in Eliana Gottlieb for Newport Harbor (10-5).
That left the bases loaded with one out, but Skerik earned a strikeout then induced a ground ball to shortstop Sydney Walls for a fielder’s choice. She would allow just one more runner to get past first base until the sixth inning, on a ground-rule double by Claire Austin.
“She threw really well today,” Wakabayashi said. “She worked herself out of jams. I think that she adjusted to the umpire’s strike zone really well. She understood that he was going to give more on the inside, so she could go further in until he stopped calling it. Credit has to also be given to [catcher] Trasara Alexander for that … I think that my pitchers and catchers are just really making the adjustments.”
The Sea Kings tied the score at 1-1 in the third, when Amerys Barshtak’s single to shallow left field scored Sam Uehara. But they erupted in the top of the sixth, even after Newport Harbor relief pitcher McKayla Cotton got the first two outs.
Bigi singled, and Jasmine Vences and Alyssa Mabry were both hit by a pitch to load the bases. A pair of Newport Harbor infield errors allowed Walls and Barshtak to reach base and three runs to score, before Makena Tomlinson and Skerik each roped doubles to right to score three more runs.
Tomlinson, a junior first baseman, had a home run in CdM’s 5-4 win over Laguna Beach earlier Saturday.
The Sea Kings will play the Sailors three more times this season in Wave League play, starting Thursday at Newport Harbor. Wakabayashi said she didn’t necessarily want to play Newport Harbor on Saturday before league play began, but the Sea Kings did not discount the victory over their rivals.
“I think it’s really big for CdM softball,” said Skerik, who improved to 5-4 this season with Saturday’s win. “I think it just shows that we’re real competitors in this new league, and we’re going to have a competitive season. People can’t count us out.”