By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
All four Foothill League softball playoff teams saw surprisingly lopsided losses in their opening-round playoff matchups.
The sound teams of Saugus and Valencia, power-hitting Hart and base-hit maniacs in West Ranch all drew tough first-round matchups. On top of that, everyone but the Indians had road matchups with some lengthy drives.
Saugus falls at Chino Hills, 9-2
The Foothill League champs got one of the toughest draws in the division playoffs. The Centurion and Husky matchup pitted two league champ teams facing off in the first round.
Saugus has been battle-tested with tough opponents all season. However, the team had a bad day with an uncharacteristic six errors.
Centurion ace Marina Provencio was pulled in the first inning after the Huskies leaped out to a 6-1 lead. Provencio retired just one Chino Hills batter. Alyssa Ramirez would keep Saugus in the game but unfortunately the Centurion offense just couldn’t get rolling.
The team capped off an incredible season early. First-year head coach Amanda Clark led the team to a perfect season, Ramirez broke the school’s home run record and the team played well at Bullhead’s Tournament of Champions.
“The girls worked hard all season and we had to overcome lots of adversity with COVID protocols, sickness and injuries, but they remained focused and worked together as a team,” said Clark. “To have a season like this is rare. It has been so much fun and to do it with players that believed in each other and the coaches made it one of the best years in my coaching experience.”
Ramirez will continue her playing career at Fresno State while Provencio will do the same at Mercy College.
Valencia stunned at South Torrance, 13-1
The Vikings have also had plenty of experience with top-of-the-line opponents this year. Valencia would hope all the experience would pay dividends but still fell short in its opening-round Division 1 matchup with the Spartans.
The Vikings had several errors that cost them in key parts of this game and South Torrance made the mistakes count.
Valencia ace Casey Edwards retired the side in her first inning, but the Spartans started cooking in the second. The game was called off after five and the Vikings were stunned.
Head coach Donna Lee has seen more talent graduate than anyone. Year after year, Lee still finds the right pieces to contend for the Foothill League title if not more. Nine seniors will graduate this year with a handful continuing their playing careers. Addie Snyder, a junior, might be one of the biggest commits in the valley this year as the catcher will head to Cal State Fullerton. Edwards will continue her pitching career at Cal Lutheran. Mya Mrakich is committed to play at Albright College and Maya St. John will head to Maryville College.
Hart downed at home by Glendora, 11-1
The Indians came into the postseason hot, winning five of their last six. However, Hart’s season would end at the hands of the Glendora Tartans and their ace Bridet Nemeth. Nemeth allowed just five hits and fanned five while also batting 2-3 at the plate, including a solo home run in the top of the first.
Senior pitcher Allison Howell excelled in her last outing. Howell handled the bottom half of Glendora’s batters well with the exception of one. The senior kept the four batters a combined 2-11. The top of the order and six-hole hitter Haley Ganino proved too much for Hart as they surged late in the seventh inning to pull away.
“We really had a great season,” said head coach Steve Calendo. “We had 20 wins, did great in the tournaments and did great in league.”
The Indians will graduate six seniors, including Howell, who is headed to Cal State Monterey Bay to continue her softball career.
Calendo will have a ton of talent returning as the team looks to retake the Foothill League title.
South Hills puts on hitting clinic against West Ranch, 10-1
The Wildcats have looked on the cusp of getting to the next level a handful of times this season. The team has several impressive wins but couldn’t get one more in the opening round of the Division 2 playoffs.
The Huskies had six players with multi-hit games, tallying 17 hits between them. South Hills was led by sophomore Kayla Sigala, who batted a game-high 4-4.
West Ranch’s sole run came from one of its hottest batters. Krista Viereck was one of five Wildcats with hits on the day. The sophomore launched a solo home run in the fifth inning, but West Ranch couldn’t rally. Viereck ended her season batting just under .500
Senior Lily Baggot ended up leading the team with 44 hits and a .524 average.
Head coach Phil Giarrizzo will retain a good chunk of his offense heading into next season. Losing key seniors is tough but part of the high school athletic world. West Ranch will graduate Addie Ferguson, Schalyn Rambo, Emma Warford, Paige Pikor and Baggot.