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CIF softball: Battle tested

’Cats have to work to beat strong El Modena in first round

Posted: May 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch’s Julia Lombardi, right, avoids the tag of El Modena catcher Lauren MacLeod to score a run during Thursday’s CIF-Southern Section Division I playoff game at West Ranch High School. Lombardi had three hits.

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West Ranch softball’s debut in the 2012 CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs didn’t play out like one might expect a league champion’s first round game to go.

The Wildcats found themselves matched up with an El Modena team that played like anything but the Century League third-place team that it was.

But in the end, West Ranch pitcher Bailey Foster shut down the Vanguards and West Ranch scratched across enough runs to walk away with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday afternoon at West Ranch High School.

“We knew generally they’re ranked one or two and we were surprised they had come in third,” said West Ranch assistant coach Tom Dudley, who was coaching in place of the absent Bob Shults. “I felt like we were playing a first-place team. They were exactly what we thought they would be.”

The regular season was already the most successful in school history, with the Wildcats (22-4-1 overall) winning their first Foothill League title after finishing league play at 9-1.

Now, the West Ranch is trying to continue that momentum into the playoffs.

“I thought we had peaked a little early,” Dudley said. “But we’re rolling with it. If we keep getting better the way we have been, I think we’ve got a shot.”

With the first playoff win under their belt, the Wildcats will play Santiago of Corona, which knocked them out of the quarterfinals last season.

Before they could get to that point, though, they had to deal with El Modena (19-10).

Both teams struggled offensively over the first three innings, with Foster and the Vanguards’ Megan McCune breezing in the circle.

The Wildcats finally struck in the fourth when Julia Lombardi drove home Lauren Lindvall and Keeley Walsh hit a two-RBI double to mark the fourth straight hit of the inning and a 3-0 West Ranch lead.

That knocked McCune out of the game after 3 1/3 innings pitched. She allowed five hits and three runs with a walk and strikeout.

The Vanguards responded in the fifth with a run, and threatened for more if not for a lucky bounce.

With runners on first and second and two outs, Mikaela Viloria’s grounder ricochetted off the glove of Lindvall and directly to shortstop Kylie Sorenson, who threw to first for the final out.

“We knew the challenge would be tough, we did our homework,” said El Modena head coach Steve Harrington. “(The Wildcats are) just good players. They worked to get their runs. It was an incredible ball game.”

Foster continued to settle in from there, pitching seven innings and allowing five hits and a run with four strikeouts and no walks to pick up the victory.

“I felt really good,” Foster said. “We had a good battery between me and (catcher Janelle Lindvall). We were on the same page and working together.”

That included having to find a way to avoid Vanguard players and coaches from stealing their signs, something Foster said she sensed was happening from the first inning.

“They were calling things on second base from Janelle moving on second base,” Foster said. “We just had to keep in the game and hit my spots.”

But even with the extra edge, the Vanguards couldn’t get much going against the senior pitcher.

“Bailey did a heck of a job getting good hitters off balance,” Dudley said. “That’s the key. Bailey has (111) strikeouts on the season. With our defense, we generally pitch to contact, but she gets her strikeouts. She’s the key. Walks kill everyone and she didn’t have a single walk today.”



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