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CIF softball playoffs: West Ranch squeezed in

Wildcats defeat Moorpark with a gutsy play in the bottom of the seventh inning

Posted: May 20, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 20, 2011 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch’s Haley Hineman lays down a squeeze bunt, which scored the winning run in Thursday’s 1-0 Wilcats victory at West Ranch High.

 

Haley Hineman had been asked to lay down a bunt several times before this season.

Never had the West Ranch sophomore faced such a scenario with a CIF-Southern Section Division I playoff game on the line.

Hineman successfully executed a walk-off squeeze bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift West Ranch softball to a 6-5 win past Moorpark in Thursday’s first-round game at West Ranch High School.

It marks the first playoff victory in program history, and it came despite the Wildcats (20-7) trailing heading into the last two innings.

“It’s a marathon,” said West Ranch head coach Bob Shults. “And the girls stayed calm. They were calmer than I was. I’m the one that gets too excited.”

After letting West Ranch score the first four runs of the game, Moorpark (16-9) fired back to take a 5-4 lead in the third inning and held it until the sixth.

West Ranch senior Mollie Sorenson tied it up with a sacrifice fly to left field at that point, setting up the drama in the seventh.

Julia Lombardi led off the frame with a single, and her pinch runner, MacKenzie Morgan, got to third base on a sacrifice bunt and an Alex Gaff base hit.

Then it was Hineman’s turn.

“I was definitely nervous,” Hineman said. “But knew it was a little thing I had to do to contribute to my team.”

On the first pitch, Hineman bounced the ball between the pitcher’s mound and third base, which allowed Morgan just enough time to slide under the tag at home.

“Coming in today, I knew this game was going to be evenly matched, I knew it was going to be high scoring and I knew it was going to be close,” said Musketeers head coach Meaghan Stotts. “It is what it is.”

Other than that, all the scoring happened in the first three innings, beginning with the Wildcats’ four-hit, four-run barrage in the first.

Musketeers starter Cheyenne Sandoval loaded the bases with two singles and a walk to the first three batters she faced. From there, she walked Lauren Lombardi for the first run, let another score on a wild pitch, and the last two came across on RBI singles from Julia Lombardi and Jennifer Metcalf.

With West Ranch up 4-2, Sandoval was pulled before an out was recorded, but her replacement, Rachael Farrington brought the Marmonte League’s second-place finisher back in it.

Farrington went 6 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs off six hits. She fought her way out of the first inning as well as a bases-loaded no-out jam in the fourth without surrendering a run.

“Rachael has been an outstanding closer for us all year and she’s not used to pitching that many innings,” Stotts said. “She was clutch today.”

For the Wildcats, Bailey Foster got the job done in the circle, going all seven innings while giving up five runs, four earned, off eight hits. She struck out six.

Moorpark got to Foster in the first inning when Alexa Curt smacked a two-run home run to left-center.

The Musketeers scored their last three runs in the third when four of the first five batters hit safely in the frame. One of the runs scored on an error by Mollie Sorenson in left field.

Foster didn’t get hassled much after that, and her win puts the Wildcats in a second-round matchup against either Santiago of Corona or Valencia of Placentia. At this point, it’s uncharted waters for West Ranch.

“It just feels good to be a part of this group of girls,” Hineman said.

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