The day before Valencia High softball’s 2-0 home win over Foothill High of Santa Ana on Tuesday in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, pitcher Shea O’Leary said she just wanted to have fun.
After a complete game that featured only three hits and six strikeouts, it seemed O’Leary achieved that goal.
“Yeah, I did (have fun),” she said. “I had so much confidence in my team today, I was making them hit the ball and so my defense really stepped up today with some great plays and so I’m really proud of them.”
The Vikes (25-7) dented the scoreboard early, scoring on an error in the first inning.
“It relaxes everybody,” said Valencia coach Donna Lee. “When you score early, everybody can be, ‘OK, I don’t have to be that person that has to (deal with) any pressure.’ … They were able to get into their flow.”
Kyla Hardy hit an RBI single in the third inning to finish out the day’s scoring, although a sixth-inning double from pinch hitter Julia Fuentes also sent the dugout into a frenzy.
“I wanted to get out there and be aggressive and I knew she was pitching outside so I was expecting it,” Fuentes said. “I wanted to do something for my team to start it up, get some runs.”
The Knights had perhaps their best chance of scoring in the sixth inning when Brooke Cantillo singled and stole second. The next batter hit a ground ball into center field but was ruled out of the box to end the inning.
It didn’t stop center fielder Ashley Griffith from throwing home to catcher Ally Shipman for the tag in a show of defensive strength.
“We’re very connected with each other,” said outfielder Kelia Paragas of the defense. “We see each other almost every day, we practice with each other, and we bond with each other. We’re very close.”
For Foothill, Savannah Weaver was 2-for-3 at the plate. Pitcher Janea Brannen allowed three hits and recorded six strikeouts.
The Vikings now proceed to the quarterfinals and will face Orange Lutheran on the road on Thursday.
“We’re really going to have to play a solid defensive game,” Lee said. “Shea’s going to have to hit her spots and they’re a very, very aggressive team.
“…. But any team can be beaten any given day. Our job is to go out there and be the team that beats them.”