Softball is an unforgiving game, as El Toro High School pitcher Dawn Robertson can attest.
Robertson struck out 10, gave up three hits and allowed no earned runs but lost to Arroyo, 2-1, in the Southern Section 2-A championship game at Mayfair Park Friday.
Meanwhile, her counterpart for the Knights, sophomore pitcher Laura Lewis (21-1), didn't strike out a batter and allowed five hits, relying on an excellent defense to lead Arroyo to the first softball title in school history.
"I feel great," said Lewis, grasping her championship medal and patch in her pitching hand as she posed for photographs. "We've never been past the second round before. I just can't believe we're here right now."
Softball tends to favor front-runners and the Knights (22-1) took that role in their first trip to the plate in front of a crowd of 550.
The key to the game was a case of first-inning nerves on the part of the No. 2-seeded Chargers (23-6), who gave up the winning run before ever coming to bat.
Against Robertson, Arroyo didn't perform like a team with a batting average of .400, producing its only offense of the game in economical fashion.
"(Robertson) was a real good pitcher," said Knight Coach Richard Barnes, who was an assistant at El Monte last season when the Lions won the 2-A title.
"She pitched well enough to win," Barnes said. "We just got the breaks in the first inning and scored one more than they did. I'll take it, though."
With one out, Arroyo's Teena Vasquez singled to left. Then the No. 3 hitter with the fearsome .603 average, Missy Phillips, popped up. The ball appeared to be headed over the screen and Robertson's twin sister, catcher Karen Robertson, made a slight misjudgment and dropped it.
Phillips wound up drawing a walk and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Robertson (13-3) struck out Chela Castano. But clean-up hitter Kathy Van Valkenburgh, who had a .409 average and 44 RBIs, dropped a bloop single behind third base to score Vasquez.
Van Valkenburgh decoyed her way into a rundown between first and second base, allowing Phillips to scramble home with the winning run. El Toro, which left seven runners on base, tried to come back in the third on singles by Tanya McKinley, Ali Gibson and a bunt single by Gina Giardini. Shawn Gallagher, the only player in the game with two hits, grounded to second, scoring McKinley. But the rally turned out to be the final one of the season by the Chargers.
"We've faced a lot faster (pitchers than Lewis)," Charger Coach Jim Daugherty said. "Their attitude is that she'll just put the ball in the strike zone and they'll play good defense and keep the runs down.
"That's the way they beat (No. 1-seeded) Charter Oak (in Tuesday's semifinals), and that's what they did to us. We had enough balls hit to win the game, but they flagged them down."
Daugherty said Robertson's pitching was "superb."
Karen Robertson added: "I think she pitched one of her best games ever. Everyone just had the jitters in the first inning. After that, we were hitting well, but they had a really solid defense . . . I think we played equally--except for the first inning."