Hart softball heading to title game

Hart's Andrea Cespedes (2) is mobbed by teammates after hitting a walk-off RBI double in the 12th inning against Ayala of Chino Hills in the CIF semifinals at Hart. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/For The Signal

The plan called for Kylie Norwood to face one batter.

The script didn’t include a stolen base.

Convention said an NAIA commit on a team dotted with NCAA Division 1 standouts couldn’t play a hero twice in a row.

But, it was the third-place, wild-card, underdog Hart Indians, after all. So Norwood’s six-plus scoreless innings of relief, her stolen base in the bottom of the 12th and Andrea Cespedes’ subsequent walk-off double in a 6-5 win over Ayala of Chino Hills shouldn’t have come as a total surprise in Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinal at Hart.

PHOTOS: Hart takes down Ayala

The Indians (20-12) will play Murrieta Mesa on either Friday or Saturday in Hart’s first title game appearance since 2007 when it lost to Valencia.

“What do you want me to say?” asked Hart coach Steve Calendo after the second raucous celebration at Newhall Park in less than a week.

In Thursday’s quarterfinals, Cespedes, an NAIA Midland University signee, made a two-run saving catch in the top of the seventh before teammate Abby Sweet hit a walk-off homer in the bottom half.

Tuesday, Norwood set the stage.

Ayala freshman pitcher Sarah Willis had retired 11 Indians in a row when Norwood stepped to the plate with one out in the 12th.

The left-handed hitter chopped a single through the left side of the infield for her first hit in six plate appearances.

Then Calendo called for the unusual.

“He called (the steal) out of nowhere,” Norwood said. “We haven’t stolen in so long. I was like, ‘You know what, I’m just going to friggin sprint it and give it my all.’”

Norwood slid safely. Then Cespedes sent everyone home, lacing the ball to right center where it bounced over the fence.

“I just wanted to go home already,” said Cespedes, a .495 hitter. “I was tired.”

So, too, was Norwood after an impromptu near complete-game shutout in relief.

Calendo brought her in to pitch with one out and a runner at third in the sixth, the score tied 5-5.

The plan, Calendo said afterward, was to re-insert starter Mona Trevizo after one batter.

“I had a feeling,” Calendo said. “She looked strong to me, so I just stayed with it.”

Norwood induced a pop out and a strikeout to escape the sixth. Then she allowed one hit over the next 6 2/3 innings, striking out nine.

Had someone told her a month ago she’d pitch like that to send Hart to a CIF final, would she have believed them?

“I probably would have said you were crazy,” Norwood said. “… I probably would have thought I’d have fallen to the ground by then.”

Some likely thought Hart would have fallen by now, too. The Indians finished third-place in the Foothill League, then had to win a wild-card game, beat the bracket’s No. 2 seed and overcome two five-run deficits.

Tuesday, they fell behind 3-0 in the first inning. Yet, here they are.


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