Corona del Mar High’s softball team could count its blessing last season when the program collected its first Pacific Coast League wins since 2008.
The Sea Kings perhaps were remembered for their upstart campaign in the initial CIF Southern Section Division 6 poll, beginning this year as the fourth-ranked team.
Since then, a heavy-dose of reality has set in. CdM has a brand-new infield, and some on the team are playing softball for the first time in their lives.
League play began on Wednesday afternoon, with the Sea Kings suffering their ninth straight loss in an 11-0 defeat to visiting Northwood.
Emma McMurray threw a five-inning one-hitter with eight strikeouts. The no-hit bid was broken up with two outs in the final frame by senior outfielder Aya Prow.
“[Coach] Blair [Ota] didn’t want me to get runs on the board,” McMurray said of the near no-hitter. “I was kind of sad when he told me that I was one [out] off. It’s OK. I had fun.”
Unfortunately for the Sea Kings (3-9-1, 0-1 in league) and for Prow, it was little consolation. The game ended one batter later due to the mercy rule.
“She made the adjustment, but it was too little, too late,” Sea Kings coach Jordann Wakabayashi said of Prow’s shortened approach at the plate. “If we had started making that adjustment sooner, I think we would have gotten more hits. We had base runners. We had opportunities. We looked at too many good pitches.”
CdM’s best chance to put runs on the board came in the second inning. The Sea Kings already trailed 4-0, but the bases had been loaded by an effectively-wild McMurray. Sapphire Angely-Veron and Ireland Horvat were hit by pitches, and Jaidyn Gibson drew a walk.
Prow stepped into the box representing the tying run. She saw three pitches, all of which were called strikes against the Sea Kings’ No. 9 hitter.
Wakabayashi hinted that there would be lineup changes. The Sea Kings have a thinner lineup than they did last year, and CdM committed 10 errors in the field with several players playing out of position.
The Sea Kings’ coach said that while she recognizes that her expectations for each player on the roster should be different, one thing that she will not compromise on is effort.
“The girls who have played before and who have played for me before, they know that I expect hustle,” Wakabayashi said. “They know that I expect so much of them out of practices and in games.
“We have made it a point this year to talk to them, and if we don’t see a change in attitude, we don’t start them. I have other kids who are outworking them, so I would rather play them. They are out here giving me everything, and I reward the heart and hustle more than I reward talent.
“I feel that is more deserving because they are showing me they want to be out here every day. They are showing me that they are willing to work and sacrifice in order to be a better player in order to help the team. I don’t like the selfishness.”
Trasara Alexander struck out two for CdM in working the fifth inning. Nine of the 11 runs allowed by CdM pitching were unearned.
Northwood’s Amanda “Hotrod” Zaffino had three hits, including a double, and three RBIs.
“It’s helpful being a catcher because you know what strikes the umpire is going to call,” Zaffino said. “A lot of the edge pitches that looked really good, I knew he was not going to call that.
“I was able to wait for a pitch that I can drive, and then I had a good swing today. Everything came together.”
Sofia James drove in two runs, and Kiki Besnard had a double for the Timberwolves (3-10, 1-0).