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Spigner carries the day for Vikings

Posted: May 28, 2008 1:42 a.m.
Updated: July 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Valencia High's Jessica Spigner belts her second home run (a solo shot in the third inning) of the CIF-Southern Section Division I semifinal game at Santiago High School. Spigner hit and pitched her club to a 3-2 victory and a berth in the title game.

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Jessica Spigner did it all. Literally.

Valencia's senior pitcher hit two home runs, drove in three runs, and made the game saving play as the Vikings advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division I Finals with a 3-2 win over Santiago Corona.

"As she goes, we go," said Valencia coach Donna Lee. "She's our catalyst and she got us going from beginning to end."

Spigner gave the Vikings an early cushion with a two run homer to left field in the first inning and a solo shot in her second at bat in the top of the third.

Then Spigner hung on for dear life. Santiago had two runners on base in the bottom of the seventh and their third place hitter, Kamerin May up to bat. The count went full on May before she hit a scorching line drive back at Spigner, who stuck out her glove, almost as a form of protection, and caught the ball.

"It was intense," said shortstop Madison Shipman, who went 3-for-4 and scored the only Valencia run that didn't belong to Spigner.

It was a fitting end to the game for Spigner. The converted third baseman felt right at home when the line drive came her away. At the hot corner, where she'll play next year as a Tennessee Volunteer, she saw plenty of frozen ropes that required an instant reaction.

"There was no time to think, it was just all reaction time," Spigner said. "It was a laser hit back at me, just protecting myself."

Spigner cruised through the game early, but got into trouble in the late innings. After allowing an unearned run in the third, she gave up her second run of the game in the bottom of the sixth, but for having two on and no one out, she escaped at least somewhat. Then in the seventh, with Santiago's top of the order batting, the pressure was on.

"I was praying to the lord," Spigner said of her thought process in the seventh." Not even kidding."

Her prayers were apparently answered, and her performance had even her teammates at a loss for words.

"That was phenomenal, speechless," Shipman said. "But that's Jessie."

On the afternoon, Spigner struck out six and gave up four hits. She walked in her only other at bat. Bethany Kemp and Lelani Bernardino also had hits for Valencia.

The Vikings beat Santiago, in the semifinals last season as well before taking the CIF title on their way to a No. 1 finish nationally.

Earlier this season, however, Santiago, who was ranked No. 11 in the country by USA today, had the upper hand, beating Valencia 3-0.

May held Valencia to four hits on that day in March. The Vikings, who are undefeated in their last 12 games, took that loss as a lesson and used it as motivation.

"We learned a lot from that game, to prevent that from happening again," said Spigner, who had two of Valencia's eight hits.

The last time around, Spigner was pitching her fifth game in two and a half days and was tired, according to Lee. This time, Spigner had just enough gas remaining to finish off the Sharks.

"I'm blessed to have her on my team," Lee said.

Lee, who comes up with a slogan relating to the opposing team's mascot before every game, told her team to make sushi out of the Sharks.

"We're definitely going to make some sushi tonight," said Lee, grinning from ear to ear.

Valencia will face Simi Valley Friday in the championship game at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine.

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