WESTLAKE VILLAGE — The members of the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy softball team had enough on their plate competing against the second seed in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.
Their plate got a bit more full when they lost their top player to an injury that had nothing to do with pitching.
Flintridge Sacred Heart first loss its starting pitcher Jessica Ferri to an injury before suffering an 11-0 road loss to Oaks Christian in a first-round contest Thursday afternoon.
The Tologs (19-6) lost the Harvard University-bound Ferri in the top of the first inning. Ferri reached base while striking out and moved to second on a sacrifice. Ferri then tried a delayed steal of third before being caught. As she slid into the base, she suffered an apparent right-knee injury.
The right-hander didn’t immediately come out of the dugout to take her spot in the circle. Several trainers from Oaks Christian came to her aid, and Ferri didn’t return.
Flintridge Sacred Heart second-year Coach Kirk Nishiyama chose to replace Ferri with junior Emily Brown, who was penciled in to start in right field. Instead, Brown made her first appearance in the circle since last year when she played on the school’s junior varsity squad.
With Ferri, who finished the season with 254 strikeouts, no longer available, the Lions (25-4-1) smelled blood. The Tri-Valley League champions scored four runs in their half of the first to put the game out of reach.
“I just felt bad about Jess, but that’s the way she plays,” said Nishiyama, whose team finished tied for second in the Mission League with Chaminade before beginning the postseason with a 6-0 wild-card win against Arroyo Grande on Tuesday at the Glendale Sports Complex. “She’s been like that all year, and that’s why she’s been so successful.
“I told her no way that she would go back in because she’s got her future ahead at Harvard. I thought Emily came in and tried her best to battle.”
Ferri (19-5 with an 0.36 earned-run average) said she wanted to take the circle. However, her knee began to ache.
“I really wanted to go out there [to pitch],” said Ferri, a reigning All-Area first-team member. “I was trying to be aggressive in the first inning by testing their defense.
“I hit my knee on the turf, and I didn’t feel anything at first. Then I started jogging off the field and I started to feel it. It doesn’t hurt, but it feels loose.”
The Lions, who captured CIF championships in 2003 and 2004, took a 1-0 lead in the first on a run-scoring single by Kiana Quolas.
Oaks Christian then scored two runs to make it 3-0. Savannah Carpenter hit a sacrifice fly. The throw to the plate was too late to get the Oaks Christian runner, and the catcher then threw the ball down the left-field line trying to get the runner advancing to third.
Flintridge Sacred Heart, which had last appeared in the playoffs in 2006, never recovered. In fact, Quolas limited the Tologs to a pair of hits while going the distance and sending the Lions into a second-round showdown against Colton on Tuesday.
Brown, a right-hander, didn’t imagine that she would pitch.
“When Jess got hurt, it went through my mind that I might be pitching,” said Brown, who completed the game. “I had a lot of fun out there.
“We had an amazing year, and we all stepped it up.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart got a triple in the fourth by Maya Richard-Craven and a fifth-inning single by Mary Knauf. Katie Elliott and Ava Jensen had three hits apiece for Oaks Christian.