LAKE ARROWHEAD — With a blast into the thin mountain air, Flintridge Prep's Denise van der Goot gave the Rebels and their faithful reason to believe a comeback was possible.
And when Ashley Kim let fly on another blast that traveled deep into right field, the Rebels and their fans once again were lifted from their seats.
Only this time, Kim's blast came up short, as did the Rebels in a 3-1 loss to host Rim of the World on Tuesday afternoon in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs.
"I think it reignited hope," said van der Goot of her home run to center field on the first pitch of the top of the seventh inning. "We did get a rally going after that. We came pretty close to tying it. Ashley had another good hit, but unfortunately they caught it.
"It's nice to end the season that way … fighting back to the end."
Charlotte Kay followed van der Goot with a sharp single to center field and, with one out, Maya Okamoto drew a walk. Then, with two outs, Kim came up to the plate and, on a 1-2 offering, sent a high line drive to right field that brought the crowd to its feet before the right fielder, who had misjudged the ball a bit, snared the victory.
"It's definitely a tough one," said Rebels Coach Julie Jaime, whose team ended its season at 14-5. "[The seventh inning] shows exactly the fight that we have. They don't quit."
While the Rebels in many ways came up one rally short against the Scots (23-5), who took second in the Mountain Valley League, the offensive damage done to Prep came either from itself or one of two Scots — Arizona State-bound standout Elizabeth Caporuscio, the No. 4 hitter, and No. 5 hitter Sarah Tribe.
"I absolutely think it was us," said van der Goot of allowing the Scots to score on their miscues. "I really feel like we could've beat them."
Caporuscio and Tribe combined to go four for five with a run, two runs batted in and a hit by pitch.
The tandem had the only four hits that van der Goot (14-2), a senior, would allow.
Caporuscio singled to start the second inning and was held at third on an ensuing Tribe double. Van der Goot then struck out the side, but not before a throw back to the circle from the catcher went past her and allowed Caporuscio to score for a 1-0 lead.
Caporuscio, who now has a .625 average with 56 RBI, tripled home a pair of runs in the third, but the table was set by van der Goot walking the leadoff batter in the inning and hitting another with a pitch with two outs.
"Obviously, very uncharacteristic for her," Jaime said.
For the most part, van der Goot was as impressive as she has been for much of the season, tossing a complete game, allowing two earned runs, four hits, walking two, hitting two and striking out 12. After the third inning, she allowed just three more base runners — all in the sixth on a hit by pitch, bloop single and a controversial walk that saw a called third strike by the home plate umpire, but was called an illegal pitch by the third-base umpire. The illegal-pitch ball call resulted in a walk to load the bases with one out. Van der Goot calmly induced two groundouts to end the threat.
"She did a phenomenal job," Jaime said.
While all the Scots' hits were had by two batters, Prep mustered five hits — all by different Rebels.
They had runners on in five of seven innings, but stranded five base runners over the first six innings and two in the last.
"We just weren't getting that clutch hit," Jaime said. "We just weren't able to get that two-out hit."
Caporuscio went the distance in the circle, as well, striking out five, but walking just one when Okamoto drew a base on balls in the seventh. For much of the early portion of the game, the Rebels were aggressive at the plate and often times swinging at balls out of the zone.
"Her speed was a little different, we reached quicker," said Jaime, who also got singles from Alina Okamoto, Chelsea Johnson and Maya Okamoto. "I think it took us too long to adjust. I wish we would've had one more inning."
Unfortunately for the Rebels, one more inning wasn't to be had for a Prep squad that shared the Prep League title before bestowing upon Jaime her first-ever playoff coaching victory.
"I'm so excited and pleased with the season we've had," Jaime said. "It's been unforgettable."