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This round goes to Norco

Cougars knock off Hart in renewed postseason rivalry

Posted: June 2, 2009 10:06 p.m.
Updated: June 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
NORCO – Both Hart and Norco softball expected a battle.

History told them so, as the two teams prepared to play each other late in the postseason for the fourth straight year.

Unfortunately for Hart, the Indians came up short for the second season in a row and were denied their fourth trip to the CIF-Southern Section Division I finals, falling 2-0 to dominant senior starter Teagan Gerhart and the Cougars Tuesday in the Division I semifinals at Norco High.

“We knew it would come down to one big hit or a couple of miscues,” said Hart head coach Steve Calendo.

The Cougars (31-2) benefitted from both in the defining fifth inning, after loading the bases with the first three batters of the frame.

Norco first baseman Jordan Emanuele singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second following a bunt single by center fielder Gina Bertanga. Cougars right fielder Whitley Gerhart hit the next pitch sharply to Hart senior shortstop Emily Henry, who was unable to make the play.

With no outs and three runners on, Hart senior pitcher Destiny Rodino struck out Norco shortstop Kelli Frye to get the first out of the inning, and Rodino appeared poised to get out of the jam.

However, one a batter later, Norco catcher Kelsey Gerhart made sure to capitalize on a golden opportunity, plating courtesy runner Macie Bayer and Bertanga with a two-run single up the middle to provide the game’s only runs.

It was all Gerhart would need.

The senior hurler pitched seven innings, striking out 10 batters and surrendering only two hits, both in the seventh inning.

“Teagan just did her job,” said Rodino as she fought back tears. “She made us do what she wanted. I commend her for that.”

For Rodino and Gerhart, Tuesday’s game was their third meeting.

“It was definitely a pitcher’s duel,” said Hart senior catcher Jessica Shults.

In 2007, Rodino got the best of Gerhart, leading the Indians (27-5) to a 5-2 win at Newhall Park. But in 2008, Gerhart’s Cougars beat Hart 1-0. Norco also beat the Indians in 2006 by the score of 2-0 to begin the epic series.

On Tuesday, Rodino pitched six innings with five strikeouts and gave up six hits. She also reached on an error in the top of the fifth.

In the seventh inning, Hart appeared ready for a comeback as Shults, a .452 hitter on the season, doubled deep to left-center field.

After Rodino was called out on strikes for the second out of the inning, senior first baseman Heather Stiglich came to the plate.
Stiglich singled to right field, and Shults took the turn at third base.

As the throw came in from the outfield, Shults attempted to get under the tag, but was called out at the plate to end the game.

“Our team always fought to the end,” Shults said. “Even today, we gave it 110 percent.”

When asked if he felt the game was secured after his team’s two-run fifth inning, Norco head coach Rick Robinson sighed and laughed.

“Not until there were 21 outs,” he said. “They have too many good players on that team.”

pputignano@the-signal.com

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