Hart softball walks off for first semi berth since ’09

Hart High's Abby Sweet (26) is greeted at home after hitting a walk-off home run to defeat the Patriot of Riverside 9-8 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 quarterfinals at Hart. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/For The Signal)

Two plays.

One sent an outfielder sprinting in.

The other sent a ball hurtling out.

One sent Hart’s Andrea Cespedes sprawling.

The other sent teammate Abby Sweet wheeling around the bases toward a Hart contingency at home plate.

Cespedes’ diving catch with two runners in scoring position in the top of the seventh set the stage for Sweet’s no-doubt walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning to send Hart to its first semifinal since 2009 after a 9-8 home win over Patriot of Riverside on Thursday.

The Indians (19-12), who will host Ayala of Chino Hills in Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semis, trailed 5-0 heading to the bottom of the third.

Sweet never doubted.

“I knew we had it all the time,” the third baseman said after her team ended Patriot’s 20-game win streak. “Even when they tied the game up (in the seventh), I knew whatever happened we were going to get on base, we were going to move them over, and we were definitely going to score in the bottom of the seventh.”

Sweet expedited the process.

After Patriot (25-5) pushed two run across in the top of the seventh to tie the score 8-8, she led off the bottom of the frame and obliterated a pitch over the left-field fence.

Standing on deck, the moment evoked an 80s movie reference for junior Jordyn Gasper.

“The moment that ball hit that bat, I knew, ‘It’s over. It’s over.’ I was kind of Breakfast Club – I had my bat up (above my head),” Gasper said. “I was just yelling the entire time.”

Gasper hopped toward home plate with her teammates. Fans flung their arms in the air.

One hollered out that he’d called the walk-off. Rumor had it, senior Kylie Norwood had done the same from Hart’s dugout.

She’d also done a lot to get the Indians to that point in the first place.

Starting the game at second base, Norwood shifted to the circle with Hart already down 4-0 in the third, taking over for Mona Trevizo, who’d thrown a complete-game shutout in Tuesday’s second round.

Norwood proceeded to allow two runs over the next four innings as Hart rattled off 10 hits and seven runs to take the lead.

Hart’s Andrea Cespedes catches a ball before colliding with the fence at Hart on Tuesday.(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/For The Signal)

However, the righty pitcher needed help in the seventh. One of Hart’s two errors and a Denise Armendariz RBI double cut Hart’s lead to 8-7. Two batters later, Samantha Gutierrez’s perfectly placed bunt scored the tying run from third.

Then, with two outs and two in scoring position, Izabel Fregoso lifted a flair over third.

“I thought the ball was in for a hit,” said Hart coach Steve Calendo.

Playing deep in left, Cespedes wasn’t sure she’d make it either. As the ball dipped toward disaster, she dove and snagged it.

“I thought Andrea’s catch in the last inning was the play of the game,” Calendo said.

As far as timeliness, yes. As far as shock value, not necessarily.

Back in the first inning, with a run across and runners at second and third, Patriot’s Zinaida Preciado walloped a drive toward the outfield.

Cespedes made a running, over-the-shoulder catch and collided with the portable fence, which collapsed under her. She hung on. And, ultimately, so did Hart, which finished with 17 hits.

Hart High’s Sarah Backer scores in the seventh inning after a wild pitch got past Patriot catcher Tatyana Carvajal on Thursday. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/For The Signal)

Aly Kaneshiro had three of them.  Shortstop Brooke Marquez went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

Norwood was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, highlighted by a two-run single in the third.

Freshman Juliette Owen led off a four-run fourth with a solo home run.

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