LAGUNA BEACH — Alex Krohnfeldt was supposed to cut out by 5 p.m.
The Costa Mesa High senior shortstop was set to receive a scholarship Tuesday evening at a school board meeting. The commute from Thurston Middle School in Laguna Beach back to Newport-Mesa wasn't guaranteed to be friendly, especially during rush hour.
Costa Mesa Coach Nichole Maddox begged Krohnfeldt's mom for 15 more minutes between innings of Tuesday's Orange Coast League showdown at Laguna Beach. As it turned out, the shortstop stayed for the whole game even though it ended just after 5:30 p.m.
"She was supposed to leave at 5 o'clock," Maddox said, smiling. "It didn't quite happen."
Krohnfeldt and her teammates could smile as well after producing a 6-3 victory that clinched Mesa's third straight postseason appearance. The Mustangs had been tied with the Breakers headed into the game but now, with a game to go, Mesa (7-15, 5-4 in league) has clinched third place in league and the CIF Southern Section Division V playoff spot that goes with it.
Even if Laguna Beach (9-8-1, 4-5) wins Thursday at last-place Saddleback and Costa Mesa loses to cross-town rival Estancia, the Mustangs have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"We knew it was make or break," said senior second baseman Sami Feinstein, who was one for four with a run batted in and two stolen bases. "For my senior year, it definitely means a lot to me. My other two sports that I've played [volleyball and soccer], we've been so close but we haven't been able to persevere all the way until the end. For it to be my final sport in high school and to make it into the playoffs, I feel like it's a really good way to close my four years that I've been here playing three sports. I'm really, really excited."
The Mustangs broke open a 3-3 game with a big seventh inning. With one out, junior Donne Obong reached on a two-base throwing error, and she was bunted to third by senior Nikki Lether.
Senior Itzel Flores followed with a hard shot past shortstop and all the way to the center-field wall. The RBI triple gave Mesa a 4-3 lead, but the Mustangs weren't done. Feinstein's single to center scored Flores, then Feinstein stole second and third. She came in on Krohnfeldt's infield single to third base, and the Mustangs had their 6-3 advantage.
Flores led the Mustangs' offense, going three for four with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs. Skipps was two for four and had a stellar game defensively, throwing out two would-be base stealers at second and also picking one off first – with the assist by Feinstein.
The Breakers opened their half of the seventh as Kennedi Gherardini reached on a two-base throwing error. But she was tagged out on Karina Riess' grounder to third, then Riess was gunned down trying to steal second by Mesa senior catcher Alosina Skipps. Mustangs senior pitcher Tamy Cerrato then got the final out on a grounder to third.
Costa Mesa didn't always help out Cerrato, making seven errors. Two of the Breakers' three runs were unearned, the earned run being sophomore third baseman Katie Anderson's solo home run to center leading off the third inning. But the Mustangs also turned two double plays to get themselves out of danger in the second and third innings.
"We should have been on top of this team the whole game," said Maddox, whose team never trailed. "This is not a team we should even let in the game, and we let them hang around too long. Those are the kinds of teams that can make or break you, the teams that you let hang around.
"To me, they're a team that's somewhat like an Estancia team as far as talent is concerned. I tell my team all the time, we have great talent. A lot of times we let teams hang in there on us, and we should not. We have the better talent. We're a better team, and we let them play with us when they shouldn't."
Costa Mesa has the tiebreaker over Laguna Beach after also topping the Breakers, fielding a varsity team for the first time in four years, 8-7 at the Mustangs' field on April 25. Defending champion Calvary Chapel and Godinez are the top two teams in the six-team league.
"It means a lot to me," Maddox said of another playoff berth. "I've been here two years and in every [season with basketball and softball] I've made playoffs. I encourage my teams to work hard and if they work hard, we accomplish things that we would never think we could accomplish. We struggled and we struggled, but they seem to pull it out at the right time."
Orange Coast League
Costa Mesa 6, Laguna Beach 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
CM 001 010 3 — 6 9 7
LB 001 011 0 — 3 6 4
Cerrato and Skipps; Putnam and Gherardini. W – Cerrato, 5-10. L – Putnam, 9-8. 2B – Flores (CM) 2, Krohnfeldt (CM), Obong (CM), Gherardini (LB). 3B – Flores (CM). HR – Anderson (LB).