PASADENA — Leading into Friday afternoon's pivotal Prep League showdown with Mayfield, Flintridge Prep's softball team found itself a victory away from clinching the Prep League title.
But upon the conclusion of Friday's league game, the Rebels walked away from Brookside Park still one away — one victory, one run and, perhaps, one call away in a nailbiting 1-0 loss to the host Cubs.
"It's a tough one to swallow," said Rebels Coach Julie Jaime, whose squad fell into a first-place tie atop the league with Mayfield after its loss.
Despite the efforts of Rebels pitcher Denise van der Goot, who allowed just one run and five hits, while striking out 14 over a complete-game performance, Prep (11-4, 8-2 in league) was unable to pull out a win over a Mayfield team (12-7, 8-2) it had defeated, 2-1, on April 12.
"We didn't get the timely hits today," said Jaime, whose team had just three hits in all — singles by Abbey Deckop, Alina Okamoto and Chelsea Johnson. "They got the hits and the breaks and we didn't get those today."
For most on the Flintridge Prep side, the biggest break for Mayfield was seen to be in the top of the sixth, when the Rebels had put together their best opportunity of the game, as infield singles by Kelly Wang with one out and Chelsea Johnson with two outs put runners at first and second. Up stepped Deckop, the clean-up hitter. She worked a 2-2 count before she took a pitch that appeared to most to be low and outside, but was called for strike three, much to the dismay of the Rebel faithful and Deckop.
"It was definitely not a strike," Deckop said. "I would never strike out looking in that situation. I was trying to foul off anything close."
The Rebels had one last breath of hope in the seventh when van der Goot reached on an error to lead off the inning. Pinch-runner Charlotte Kay took second on a groundout and then third on a sacrifice bunt, but would get no farther.
"There's nothing we can do about it," Jaime said of the call against Deckop. "We should be able to score one run, we should be able to take care of our business."
Prep also stranded a pair of runners in the fourth.
Mayfield's run didn't come without controversy, either.
Cubs No. 9 hitter Imani Mitchell went two for two on the day, both on infield slap singles. And both came with Rebels coaches and fans complaining that she made contact after having already ran out of the batter's box. In the second instance, in the bottom of the fifth, it led to the only run of the game.
After Mitchell stole second, leadoff hitter Jessica Parada singled to left, scoring Mitchell ahead of a throw far offline.
Two other factors loomed large in the Rebels' loss.
The first was the play of Mayfield's Katherine Clancy in the circle. The senior struck out six and issued just one walk in seven innings en route to the shutout.
In addition, Prep's Ashley Kim, the team's No. 3 hitter, and Jenna Galper didn't arrive to the game until the bottom of the sixth inning due to AP testing.
"Ashley's a big part of our lineup," Deckop said. "It's just another dynamic [without her in the lineup]."
Moving forward, should both teams win out, they will share the league title — which would be the third in a row for Mayfield. Both teams are set to face Chadwick, while Mayfield has a game with Webb also remaining and Prep has its finale against Westridge — which defeated the Rebels in the teams' first encounter.
Said Jaime: "We still control our own destiny. … We can rely on ourselves."