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COC softball: Close to hosting

Cougars could host first-round playoff game

Posted: April 6, 2010 10:03 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons' Ashley Imperial delivers a pitch on Tuesday at COC.

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Among the College of the Canyons softball team’s goals this season is the opportunity to host a first-round playoff game.

Thanks to a pair of wins on Tuesday, the Western State Conference-leading Cougars got that much closer.

COC sophomore pitcher Ashley Imperial threw a pair of complete games and only surrendered one earned run in the process to beat Los Angeles Valley College 4-1 and 6-1 at COC, pushing the team’s conference winning streak to 11 games.

The last time the Cougars lost a conference game was 5-4 to Citrus College on March 9.

With six games remaining, COC head coach John Wissmath saw Tuesday’s doubleheader as a key time to sharpen his team, particularly Imperial.

“She was first-team all-conference and Pitcher of the Year (last year),” Wissmath said. “I’ve got to use her like one.”

Imperial improved her WSC record to 12-2 with the victories and finished the day with eight strikeouts, three walks and eight hits through 14 innings of work. She allowed two runs, including one in each game’s first inning. Only the second game’s was earned.

The Saugus High graduate, who came into the game with a 2.46 ERA, looked poised and expected to start both contests.

“I had to not psych myself out, and just relax,” she said. “Don’t think too much. But at the same time, I was focused. ... I think I should be going in (to the final stretch of the season and playoffs) strong. As long as I have my defense, I should have no problems.”

COC (23-9, 12-2) didn’t waste any time responding to both leads by L.A. Valley (18-12-1, 6-6).

In the first game, the Cougars overcame what Wissmath called lackadaisical play with one run in the bottom of the first, second, fourth and sixth innings.

“They just need to think about the play after the play,” he said. “We just weren’t getting that key hit with runners on.”

The second game progressed much the same way, as COC scored in the bottom of the first.

With Alexis Caso on second base and Melissa Herndon on first, the two took off on a double steal.

Monarch catcher Madison Urena’s throw went into left field with no one covering third, allowing Caso to score.

The score remained tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the sixth.

Then the Cougars found the offense they had been looking for.

Starting with COC center fielder Whitney Bruce’s leadoff triple down the first-base line, COC scored five runs in the inning.

“All day, the pitches were outside, outside, outside,” Bruce said. “Then I finally got one high and inside, which is my favorite pitch. I just drove it.”

The hit was followed up with RBI singles by Alexis Tellez, Stephanie Pena and Caso, as well as an RBI double courtesy of Jessica Fridwall.

The inning blew what was an otherwise strong pitching performance by Valley’s Belen Benitez.

“We played incredibly well,” said Monarchs head coach Frankie Garcia. “I don’t believe the sixth inning is representative of the game as a whole. They are a great hitting team and they got their bats going. But our defense was phenomenal.”

Bruce was 2-for-6 with a double, triple and two RBIs through both contests.

Benitez pitched six innings with 12 hits and two walks in the second game. COC had six of those hits in the sixth inning alone.

On the day, Caso went 3-for-6 with a double and two stolen bases, Herndon was 3-for-6 with a double, an RBI and a stolen base, Karissa Hartwig batted 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI and Tellez was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

The Monarchs were led by Stacy Razo, who fished 4-for-7 and Valerie Prendiz, who went 2-for-6.

“It feels good to have these wins under our belt,” Wissmath said. “They are a third-place team and a tough team.”

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