Simon keeps Flintridge Prep moving

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — With one out in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tie game, the fate of the Flintridge Prep softball season lay on the bat of first baseman Rachel Simon.

The Rebels had runners on second and third in an opening-round CIF Southern Section Division VI playoff game against visiting Santa Paula.

On a 2-1 count, Simon smacked a single through the middle of the infield, driving home Ashley Kim, and propelling Flintridge Prep to a 2-1 walk-off win Thursday.

"It's the batter's count," said Simon, who worked ahead of Santa Paula pitcher Miranda Magana. "That's the time you know they're probably going to throw you something sweet. When I hit it, it was just a great contribution and I felt overwhelmed."

Rebels Coach Julie Jaime saw no qualms in Simon, shortly before she delivered her first-ever game-clinching hit.

"Rachel was ready," said Jaime, who notched her first playoff win at Flintridge Prep. "I didn't see a scared approach. I saw a ready batter, ready to get that winning hit."

The assured notion carried into the dugout as well, where Flintridge Prep (14-4) eagerly awaited Simon's hit.

"I was confident we were going to get the run," Rebels pitcher Denise van der Goot said. "We'd been hitting the ball hard all game. We had a moment. We had to take it."

With the win, Flintridge Prep advanced to play Rim of the World on Tuesday in the second round at a site to be determined by coin flip.

Van der Goot pitched a complete game, racking up 16 strikeouts and giving up just one hit and one run. She struck out the first nine batters faced.

"She's a phenomenal pitcher," Jaime said. "She goes after batters."

Van der Goot went one for two batting, with a single and a walk.

Offense had come at a premium all game, as Magana had allowed just four hits and one unearned run just before Simon's heroics. Magana finished with four strikeouts.

Kim led off the seventh inning with a single to right-center field. Designated hitter Chelsea Johnson laid down a sacrifice bunt and the throw to second was too late.

Jaime was then forced into a tricky decision.

Santa Paula (11-8) called time to talk things over amid the brewing trouble.

"During that timeout, Ashley Kim actually asked if she could steal third," Jaime said. "As I took a step back, I realized that would be a great call. They hadn't been covering it with a lefty catcher and a right-handed hitter."

On the next pitch, Kim and Johnson both took off on the double steal. The throw to third base was not in time.

"With that, you need to take your chances," Jaime said. "We'd been putting the bat on the ball just enough. The team decided to roll with it. Even if we do get out, we still have a runner in scoring position and another out to work with."

The game remained scoreless until the top of the fourth inning, when Felicia Magana bunted and van der Goot's throw to first base was off.

With two outs, Andrea Rodriguez drove in Magana with a single to right-center field, the lone hit of the game for the Cardinals.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Maya Okamoto hit a single with two outs, then stole second base. The throw to second collided with Okamoto, who slid, sending the ball to left-center field. She immediately got up, took third base, headed for home, and slid again safely to tie the game for Prep.

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