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Valencia refuses surrender

Vikings softball still has a shot at retaining the Foothill League softball crown after win

Posted: May 12, 2009 9:40 p.m.
Updated: May 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
It turns out the names on the front of the uniforms really do make a difference.

A freshman pitcher, a rebuilt lineup and having to play in the same league as powerhouse Hart made it seem that eight-time defending league champion Valencia would finally pass on the torch. Two losses to Canyon and Saugus only strengthened those odds.

And yet, here the Vikings are.

With their backs against the wall, they beat Foothill League front-runner Hart 2-0 Tuesday at home, their second win of the season over the Indians, and suddenly a ninth consecutive Foothill League championship is just one victory away.

Valencia sophomore Caitlin Rooney delivered a bases-loaded two-run single in the sixth inning and freshman pitcher Carly Mortensen hurled a four-hit shutout as the Vikings beat Hart for the eighth time in the nine meetings against Hart’s current class of seniors.

As they’ve done roster change after roster change, the Vikings found a way.

“This was supposed to be Hart’s year,” said Valencia head coach Donna Lee. “They have great seniors. But we have a lot of pride. These girls know what’s at stake. They see the championship banners. They want to protect that legacy for all of the girls before them.”

Now it could be both Hart and Valencia’s year for league titles.

The teams, both 7-2 in league, could share the top spot for the second season in a row. Hart (23-4) will only need to beat last-place Golden Valley to claim a share. Valencia (23-5), momentum on its side, will need to earn revenge over Saugus to claim its share.

Prior to Tuesday, Hart had been in the driver’s seat to own the crown outright.

The Indians did not, however, have an answer for yet another Valencia High pitcher.

Mortensen’s only trouble in the circle Tuesday came in the top of the sixth inning when Hart pitcher Destiny Rodino hit a two-out triple to right field. Hart could not capitalize.

“I just wanted to count on my defense and throw strikes,” Mortensen said.

Throwing strikes wasn’t an issue. For Rodino, in her half of the sixth, it became one.

The senior, who gave up five hits, plunked Lauren Boser to lead off the frame, then walked Madison Shipman and Bethany Kemp on nine pitches to load the bases with no outs.

Then Rooney made her pay, delivering the game-winning hit to left field.

Rodino settled down after the two-run single, not allowing another Viking run despite the Vikings having runners on second and third base with no outs, but the damage was done.

Valencia’s chances to hang another championship banner were jolted back to life.

“After a really bad week a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t feel very good but right now we’re right back where we want to be,” Lee said. “We have a chance to win another one.”

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