The Norco high school softball team entered Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game looking to accomplish two feats.
The first was to win their fifth Division 1 crown since 2009 and become the first team to repeat as champions in that division since Valencia in 2007-08.
Riding the steady arm of Sarah Willis, the Cougars accomplished what they came for, defeating Temecula Great Oak, 2-0, at Deanna Manning Stadium.
Willis threw a complete game, allowing just three hits, while striking out eight. The junior powered through the Wolfpack lineup with her fastball, but closed out the game by fanning Quincee Lilio with a changeup.
“We knew Sarah had to hit her location and if she didn’t, we would pay for it,” Norco coach Rick Robinson said. “For the most part, she was on today and she threw the big pitch when she had to. That’s why closers make millions. You have to make the big pitch, and I don’t think anyone was expecting her to throw a changeup.”
The game was scoreless through the first three innings until Norco put the first run on the board in the bottom of the fourth.
Abby Dayton singled to left-center and was moved over to third on a single to right by Kinzie Hansen. Paige Smith scored Dayton with a sacrifice fly to give Norco (31-1) a 1-0 lead.
Great Oak (26-4-1) mounted a threat in the top of the fifth as Abby Trimble drew a walk and Sara Kinch reached base on a two-out error by the shortstop. Willis was able to get Serena Slavey to ground out to third to end the inning.
Norco added its second run in the bottom of the sixth as Hansen reached on a shortstop error. Hansen was replaced with courtesy runner Megan Forbes, who moved to second on a fielder’s choice, then to third on a wild pitch, before Kyleigh Sand drove her in with a single to left.
The Wolfpack threatened again in the top of the seventh. Kinch hit a two-out single, then Slavey drew a walk to put runners on first and second and bring Lilio, the leadoff hitter, to the plate.
Lilio struck out on Willis’ change, stranding her two teammates as the Cougars bench flooded the field for the second time in as many seasons.
Norco’s Robinson said his team’s consistent winning is a combination of good players and those players executing when needed.