West Ranch softball tops Highland in extra innings

PALMDALE — Madison Flatt chose an opportune time for her first career home run.

With the softball game tied at 10-10 between West Ranch and Highland at the end of seven innings, the senior first baseman led off the eighth inning by launching a solo home run over the center field fence to give the Wildcats an 11-10 advantage.

West Ranch scored two more runs in the extra inning on its way to claiming a 13-10 victory in a second-round CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoff game at Highland on Tuesday.

“That was my first home run in my career, so it was really awesome to have hit it and it just felt so nice. I was like, it’s just a base hit so I have to run as hard as I can and then as soon as I saw it clear the fence I was like ‘Oh my God,’” Flatt said. “When I was running into home I saw all my teammates just crowding around me, it was the best feeling ever. I think they were more excited for me than I was excited.”

“We always kind of make fun of her in batting practice because she can’t hit a home run and pretty much everyone else can and then she comes out here and goes yard,” pitcher Jenna Rorick said. “It was awesome.”

Rorick pitched all eight innings and struck out 11 Highland batters, giving up only four earned runs. The other six runs came off of defensive errors, which put the Wildcats in an early hole.

However, Rorick kept throwing heat and the West Ranch bats came alive late to secure the win.

“I had a lot of confidence because I had my teammates behind me and I told myself I was just going to go out there and pound the strike zone,” Rorick said. “I knew my teammates would have my back, even if they made some errors on defense, I knew they’d have my back on offense and they totally did.”

“Jenna is a workhorse, she pitches every single game. I love her fight, she is never willing to quit,” Flatt said about Rorick. “Even in those last few innings when we were still down by five runs she was picking us up, and I think her energy really sets the tone for the rest of the team.”

The Wildcats started the contest by scoring two runs in the first inning. Sara Olson led off the game with a single, then Adrienne Chang reached base on a fielder’s choice, but Olson was able to score after a Highland error.

Gianna Lombardi got on base with a single and Delaney Bevan scored Chang with a base hit.

Olson finished the game 3-for-6 with two runs scored and Chang went 3-for-6 with two RBIs and four runs scored. Lombardi finished 4-for-6 with three RBIs and a run. Bevan went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two walks.

The Bulldogs cut the deficit in half by scoring a run in the bottom of the second inning, then capitalized on West Ranch’s defensive mistakes to score six runs combined in the third and fourth innings to take a 7-2 lead.

“Today our fielding was not as good as it should be. Our pitching was there, our hitters were there, it was just an amazing performance all the way around without those mistakes,” said West Ranch head coach Phil Giarrizzo. “We always fight back. We don’t let mistakes get us down and that’s what happened today.”

The comeback started in the top of the fifth inning in a two-out rally, with Julie Mennuti hitting a double to left-center. Flatt was walked and Alyssa Jauregui hit a line drive double to score Mennuti and Flatt.

Mennuti was 2-for-5 and scored a run and Flatt ended the contest 2-for-4 with an RBI, two runs scored and a walk. Jauregui was perfect at the plate, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs and two walks.

The scoring continued for the Wildcats in the top of the sixth as Chang got on base with a single. Lombardi hit a line drive single and both players advanced a base on a wild pitch.

Bevan walked to load the bases, leading to Rorick’s fourth plate appearance. Starting the game 0-for-3 at the plate, Rorick fouled off the first two pitches she saw, then smashed a double to score Chang and Lombardi.

“I just told myself you have to treat every at-bat like it’s your first and not think about the past, it’s in the past, it already happened,” Rorick said.

The Bulldogs scored once more in the bottom of the sixth to gain an 8-6 advantage heading into the seventh inning.

With three outs left to take the lead and keep their season alive, the Wildcats unleashed an offensive barrage, starting with Jauregui hitting a single. Lily Baggot walked and Olson hit a line drive single to load the bases.

Chang came up with her third hit of the game, a hard grounder that scored Kimberly Rincon, who came in as a pinch-runner for Jauregui, and Baggot.

Lombardi hit a double in the next at-bat to score Olson and advanced Chang to third. Rorick then came up with her third RBI of the game, hitting a long sacrifice fly to center to score Chang.

Holding a 10-8 lead, the Wildcats were in good shape, but the Bulldogs were determined to extend the game. They did just that, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh to force an eighth inning.

That’s when Flatt came up with her clutch home run.

“What I did at third base when she’s coming around I said, ‘Mady are you kidding me? Oh my God,’” Giarrizzo said. “She did it against Saugus and that’s how we won that game. She’s been there all year for us, clutch. You just don’t expect it sometimes, but the unexpected always happens.”

West Ranch added two more runs for good measure, with Lombardi hitting a single to score Baggot, who had walked, and Chang, who got on base due to a Highland error.

Rorick got the final three outs by forcing two batters to ground out and the last batter to fly out to center field.

West Ranch moves on to the CIF-SS Division 3 quarterfinals and will face Warren High School on the road on Thursday at 3:15 p.m.

“We’re just going to have confidence, but not too much confidence,” Rorick said about facing Warren. “Tomorrow we’re going to work on stuff that we messed up in the game and staying positive.”

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