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Women's College World Series: A piece of the prize

After a year of accepting whatever role given, Hart grads rewarded with national title, momentum

Posted: June 11, 2010 10:14 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2010 4:55 a.m.

In their first season of collegiate softball, Hart graduate Devon Lindvall earned a national championship with UCLA after a two-game sweep of Arizona in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. Lindvall started 26 games in center field for the Bruins this season.

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By the time Arizona center fielder Lauren Schutzler stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning during the Women's College World Series, the UCLA softball team needed only one out to clinch its 12th national championship.

With the count at one ball and two strikes, Bruins right-hander Donna Kerr tossed the pitch.

Schutzler swung for strike three, sending the Bruins into hysteria.

Among those celebrating were Hart High graduates Devon Lindvall and Destiny Rodino, who in their first collegiate seasons claimed an NCAA title.

"After we won and when you are in that moment, everyone is hugging each other and going crazy," Rodino said. "Once me and Devon looked at each other, we just said, ‘We did it.' It's really unreal. I don't think it has completely hit me yet. Just being able to be say that I've had a dream come true, words can't describe it."

Lindvall was in center field for the final out.

"It was magical," she said. "It was just one of those moments that you'll have for the rest of your life."

Both players said the entire team was motivated by the passing of coaching legend John Wooden, who died of natural causes the day before the final game.

With All-American teammate Katie Schroeder out with a leg injury, Lindvall showed defensive consistency and emerged as the team's everyday flex player, starting 26 contests and appearing in 50.

"She did a great job of helping the Bruins not skip a beat in center field," said UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. "She has an extraordinary ability to read the ball, a strong arm, she isn't afraid of anything and she earned a starting position with the UCLA Bruins as a freshman. She instilled confidence in her team and in me."

Lindvall played all eight innings of UCLA's 6-5 win over Arizona in the first game of the finals and the last frame of the Bruins' 15-9 win in game 2.

"It's definitely always been a dream, but this is what you sign up for when you sign with UCLA softball," Lindvall said. "It's a program filled with tradition and excellence. Being a student-athlete here at UCLA, it's a job, but that's what you sign up for. It all pays off. The season was just unreal, awesome. Now being able to take this experience and move it through my next few years will be great."

Rodino, who experienced a dramatic role change this season, echoed the sentiment.

After four years as Hart's ace, the pitcher entered the season at the bottom of the pecking order.

"She had so many skills and I think the best of her game is yet to come," Inouye-Perez said. "But she came into a system that allowed her to be a freshman."

With it came the freedom to learn quite literally from the best.

"I tried to do everything I could to help the team to get where they needed to be - carrying the bucket of balls, pitch batting practice, staying after practice to feed batters," Rodino said. "Our philosophy at UCLA is putting the team before yourself. ... We respect the game and we respect each other. The game doesn't know who is supposed to win. I'm at a loss for words to describe this team and how blessed I am to be a part of history."

In eight appearances, including four starts, this season Rodino posted an ERA of 3.39 with 11 strikeouts.

Along the way, the Hart grads encountered former teammates and Foothill League rivals.

The trend continued in the championship series as Saugus graduate Victoria Kemp made her second visit to the College World Series with Arizona.

After the loss, Kemp said she has even more motivation to earn the elusive title entering her senior year.

"We know what we want at the end of the season and we don't want to fall short next year," Kemp said. "It is always a great experience to go to the College World Series because in the end, you always think about (the fact that) so many girls want to be in your shoes. It's awesome to have the opportunity to be there and to play for Arizona."

For Steve Calendo, who coached Rodino and Lindvall while they were Hart, the elite achievement comes as no surprise.

Neither does the abundance of local softball talent at the NCAA level.

"I think our whole valley is a nice area for these girls to develop their softball talent," he said. "And what makes it better is they get to compete against each other. It's not just the Orange County kids anymore. The local travel ball teams do a very good job of working with these kids and developing them."

It was that competitive edge that Inouye-Perez said drew her attention while recruiting Lindvall and Rodino.

"It was great to see both of them gain experience from it," she said "They were competing for a championship every year over there."

As sophomores in 2007, Lindvall and Rodino came close to a CIF-Southern Section Division I title, but fell 1-0 to Valencia in the championship game.

The experience drove them over the years, but is one they can officially put behind them now.

In its place is a collegiate championship.

And according to Inouye-Perez, it could be the first of many.

"Both of those two came in and did everything they could, put the program before themselves and helped this team win a championship," she said. "And that's why is the future looks great."

 

 

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