After 60 hits, 40 runs and four playoff wins, word of Hart High’s penchant for softball endangerment has spread among CIF-Southern Section Division 3 contenders.
“The takeaway is that Hart is everything we heard about them,” said Patriot of Riverside coach DeWayne Mason after a 9-8 loss to the Indians in Thursday’s quarterfinals. “They square the ball up about the way the Redlands coach reported it. He was the first victim, or second victim I guess, and we’re the third or fourth victim of Hart’s line-drive hitting.”
The Indians (19-12), who will host Ayala of Chino Hills on Tuesday, fell behind 5-0 early Thursday against a Patriot team that had won 20 games in a row and scored more runs than any team in Division 3.
Then Hart’s bats came alive. And, like others before it, Patriot struggled to find an answer.
With the score tied 8-8 in the bottom of the seventh, Abby Sweet’s walk-off home run stole the headlines, but the win was a group project.
Hart had 17 hits.
Sweet had three of them. Shortstop Brooke Marquez, catcher Aly Kaneshiro and pitcher Kylie Norwood did, too.
Then there was Juliette Owen.
The freshman started the year on varsity as a pitcher, but, according to coach Steve Calendo, a knee injury ended her season as far as the circle went.
Calendo sent her to junior varsity to gain experience, then he called her up for the playoff run so she could play second base when Norwood pitched.
Owen had two hits and an RBI in a first-round win over No. 2 seed Redlands. Then she blasted a solo home run to ignite a four-run rally in the fourth inning Thursday.
“She’s a freshman, and she’s kind of raw,” Calendo said. “But she has a lot of talent, especially on offense.”
Bottom-of-the-order hitters like Owen, senior right fielder Arianna Ramos and sophomore first baseman Abby Cunningham (a Cal Baptist commit) help make this the most consistent offense Calendo has had in 12 years as head coach.
“This is the best all-around offense we’ve ever had,” said Calendo, whose team averages 7.5 runs a game. “Not the most powerful, but the best and most consistent. I’ve had some more home-run hitting teams, but as far as one through nine in the batting order, they’re pretty solid.”
The first six are deadly.
Sweet (a Notre Dame signee), Jordyn Gasper (University of Utah), Marquez (Notre Dame), Norwood (University of Toledo), Kaneshiro and Andrea Cespedes (NAIA Midland University) are all hitting .429 and above.
Kaneshiro, who is being recruited by multiple D1 schools, according to Calendo, leads the way with 46 RBIs. Norwood has 41.
Marquez is batting .554. Norwood has 60 hits, the most in the Southern Section across all divisions, according to MaxPreps.
“We knew Sweet was a great hitter,” Patriot coach Mason said, “and we knew there were nine great hitters on that team. It was everything we imagined and maybe a little more.”