Last week it was Madison Flatt and Alyssa Jauregui who came up with clutch home runs to solidify playoff wins for the West Ranch softball team.
In the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinals on Tuesday at home against Woodrow Wilson of Long Beach, it was Adrienne Chang’s turn.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the senior catcher blasted a three-run homer over the left-center field fence to give the Wildcats a 9-2 advantage at the time, and they went on to defeat the Bruins 9-4 to advance to the CIF-SS Division 3 championship game.
“It’s kind of surreal thinking this was our last home game of this season and with this win we were in the championship, so rounding third base and seeing my teammates at home I got that realization, we’re really going to the ship now,” Chang said. “It’s really exciting and I’m glad I was able to contribute to the win.”
Not only did Chang do work at the plate, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs, but her stellar defense was also on display.
In the fourth inning, she picked off a Bruins runner trying to steal third. She stood her ground at home plate and caught a huge throw from center fielder Sara Olson for a double play to prevent a run. She also took over pitch-calling duties in the middle of the game when assistant coach Tim Rorick was ejected.
Having played with starting pitcher Jenna Rorick for years and catching for her all season, the duo didn’t skip a beat when Chang took over the calls.
“They are probably one of the best batteries out here, hands down. They work well together, she knows how to call pitches and she’s been with Jenna all year,” said West Ranch head coach Phil Giarrizzo. “She’s everything that you want in a catcher. She’s very valuable and she knows Jenna. She knows what pitches Tim has been calling all year, so to have her finish the game was the right thing to do.”
“Calling pitches I’ve done for years, so I’m totally comfortable,” Chang said. “Me and Jenna know what we like to throw in certain counts, so it’s not a big deal. It’s really awesome to be close with your pitcher because you know when that battery is good, it sets the tone for the rest of the defense. It’s nice to have that special connection with her and be able to be on the same page.”
Rorick gave up 12 hits and three earned runs in seven innings of work, striking out two batters in the process. She also threw 70 strikes compared to 31 balls.
At the plate, Rorick went 1-for-4, coming up with the team’s first RBI in the first inning with a single that scored Olson, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Gianna Lombardi reached base with a walk and scored on a Long Beach Wilson error, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 advantage after the initial inning.
Hailey Houston, the Bruins sophomore pitcher, had trouble locating the strike zone all game. She hit five West Ranch batters and walked five, throwing 141 pitches total.
“She threw a lot of balls and us getting hit by her I think really rattled her because she didn’t know where else to throw it,” Olson said. “She threw 41 pitches the first inning, we rattled her. When we get hits, every pitcher gets rattled.”
After Long Beach Wilson scored a run in the top of the second to cut the deficit in half, West Ranch scored two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to bring the lead to 4-1.
The fourth inning started with a walk for Jauregui, followed by Olson getting on base by way of a fielder’s choice. Chang hit a double and Lombardi came up with a double to score both Olson and Chang.
Lombardi finished the game 1-for-3 with two RBIs, a run scored and a walk.
The Bruins scored one more run in the fifth inning to make the score 4-2, but the Wildcats exploded in the fifth inning for five runs.
The inning started with a double to left from junior Julie Mennuti, followed by a walk for Flatt. Jauregui was hit by a pitch, leading to a bases loaded scenario for freshman Lily Baggot.
Baggot crushed a double to score Mennuti and Flatt, giving the Wildcats a 6-2 lead.
“I just thought our team needed that hit to be secure to make the championship,” Baggot said. “I had to get something, I knew a base hit would work.”
“She’s very important because if she gets out that ruins the momentum,” Olson said about Baggot. “Her coming through and giving us at-bats is really crucial.”
Baggot ended the game 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a successful sacrifice bunt in the second inning.
With two runners on, Chang came up to the plate and smashed the three-run home run, giving the Wildcats an unconquerable 9-2 lead.
Olson and her teammates weren’t surprised to see Chang hit the long bomb.
“It’s common, it happens all the time, it’s nothing new,” Olson said with a smile. “That was crucial for our inning.”
Long Beach Wilson scored two more runs, one in the sixth and one in the seventh, but it was too little too late.
With the victory, West Ranch advances to the CIF-SS Division 3 championship game, where it will face Crescenta Valley. The game will be played at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine on either Friday or Saturday. Game time will be announced Wednesday morning.
“I feel like our team has been overlooked year after year, so we’ve been that little shadow behind everyone else and slowly creeping up,” Chang said. “It’s really special for us seniors. This is a big deal for them so we want to bring it home for our seniors, the rest of the team and the school.”