It was bound to happen.The players knew it. The coach knew it. Sooner or later, El Camino Real High's softball team, the proud powerhouse with a 73-game winning streak, was going to lose a game.
"But I never thought it would come in this game," El Camino Real High Coach Neils Ludlow said.
The Conquistadores, going for their fifth straight City Section 4-A championship Wednesday, were slapped around the diamond at Cal State Northridge and dethroned by a vicious-hitting Sylmar team, 13-4.
"All along I thought we were the better team," Sylmar Coach Jeff Tumin said. "I knew we were going to beat them."
The Spartans racked Conquistadore pitcher Jodi Iwafuchi for 16 hits, including eight in Sylmar's seven-run sixth inning. The Spartans also were aided by the collapse of El Camino Real's defense, which committed seven errors to result in seven unearned runs.
"I think they scored more runs than all the teams we played this season put together," Ludlow said. "Give them credit. They played well."
Supported by boisterous fans who punctuated the Sylmar attack to the very end by chanting "73 . . . AND ONE, " the Spartans were undaunted by the El Camino Real legacy.
"I'm not surprised at all that we won it," said shortstop Teri Klement, who led Sylmar with three hits and four runs. "We wanted it. Everybody showed what we can do."
Sylmar (15-4), the City champion for the first time since 1973, capitalized on four El Camino Real errors to take a 3-0 first-inning lead.
El Camino Real (18-1) answered with four runs in the second to take the lead. Iwafuchi squeezed home Tammy Ottino and designated-hitter Andrea Rochetti doubled to score Iwafuchi. Dari Stehlik drove in Ottino with a single and later scored on a wild pitch.
"When they came back to make it 4-3, I was a little worried," Tumin said. "We were down. But I told the players that once one person starts hitting, everyone will start clubbing the ball. I kept telling the kids that our hitting is contagious."
Sylmar tied the game in the third on an RBI-single by Klement, then took a 5-4 lead in the fifth on on a run-scoring single by Maureen Monroy.
The real damage, however, was done in the sixth.
Sylmar's Linda Peters led off with a single and Cindy Campbell followed with a triple. Peters, however, was called out for failing to touch third base. Before Iwafuchi could get another batter out, five runs had scored. Michelle Blaha doubled home one run and Maureen Monroy added an RBI-single as 12 Spartans came to the plate.
"I just kept thinking 'We'll get them out.' " Ludlow said. "But the ball kept bouncing in the right places for them."
Sylmar pitcher Deanna Monroy (13-3) held the Conquistadores to six hits and had one strikeout in pitching a complete game. The Spartans supported Monroy with errorless defense.
"I thought it would be a 4-2 game," said Klement, who singled and scored in the seventh inning to finish Sylmar's scoring. "I knew we'd beat them, but I didn't think it would be like this."
El Camino Real's 73 straight is a state record. The national record of 112 is held by Catholic High of Vandebilt, La., from 1980-83.
EL CAMINO REAL'S DOMINATION IN SOFTBALL
League Overall Year Record Record Finish 1983 10-0 NA City 4-A title 1984 10-0 18-1 City 4-A title 1985 10-0 19-0 City 4-A title 1986 10-0 19-0 City 4-A title 1987 10-0 18-1 City 4-A runner-up
Won a state-record 73 straight games Won five straight West Valley League titles