Ahead of a CIF-Southern Section Division 1 first-round playoff game on Thursday, Valencia softball freshman Lani Paragas was admittedly nervous.
“Me and Emma (Bramson), because we’re the freshmen, we’ve never done this before, we were the most nervous and we didn’t want to mess up or anything,” Paragas said.
But as the at-bats progressed, the two underclassmen settled in and Paragas showed her potential when it came to hitting in the Vikings’ 2-1 win over Vista Murrieta at Valencia.
“They were a little nervous, but for the most part, we’re 32 games into a season, I think the nerves are gone now,” said Vikes coach Donna Lee. “After the first pitch, it’s just another game.”
Valencia (25-7) got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning after Noel Dominguez was hit in the back by a pitch. It drove in Ally Shipman, who was walked in the Vikes’ first at-bat of the game.
The scoreboard was halted at 1-0 until the third inning when Paragas reached first base on an error by the Vista Murrieta shortstop.
The runs seemed to trickle in for the Vikings, who didn’t round the bases as easily as they did during the Foothill League season.
“Their defense challenged us more because during league, some teams … didn’t cover bases so we took opportunities off of that,” Paragas said, “so facing their team, it made us work even harder to reach our goal because we didn’t want to lose.”
Vista Murrieta (16-13) cut the deficit in half in the fifth inning, scoring a run on a Valencia error at first base. The Vikes grounded out three times in a row in the bottom of the frame.
“You have to have a short memory,” Lee said. “Hitting is tough. It’s so much of a mental game and if you take your last at-bat to your next at-bat, you’re done. You’re toast. So we tell the kids, find a way of clearing your mind.”
Paragas got some momentum flowing late in the contest, laying down a bunt for a long-awaited Vikings hit. Kelia Paragas then grounded out to push her sister to second and one step closer to a run.
It looked as though Ally Shipman would drive her in with a missile to center field, but Cal commit Amani Bradley made a diving catch to close out the game.
“That center fielder made an incredible catch,” Lee said. “She’s a dynamite player, she’s going to Cal. She’s legit.”
The Vikings will play the Huntington Beach on the road on Tuesday in Round 2 of the Division 1 playoffs.