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Hail to the Chiefs : There Was High Drama in Santa Fe High's 2-A Semifinal Softball Win Over Cabrillo

May 31, 1990|DICK WAGNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lisa Shandy's precious right arm would take care of itself, but her left foot needed attention. Santa Fe High School's star pitcher looked down at her pink toenails as Coach David Crain stretched tape over a callus.

A junior with a 23-1 record for a 24-1 team, Shandy did not seem nervous before Tuesday afternoon's Southern Section 2-A semifinal softball game against Cabrillo of Lompoc. But her mother, Vicki, was a wreck.

"I feel like I'm going to throw up," said Vicki, who was pacing behind the backstop at Little Lake Park in Santa Fe Springs. Like her daughter, she wore a black-and-white Chiefs jersey.

In the Santa Fe dugout, advice was being dispensed.

"When you decide to steal today, go fast," said Jennifer Jannak, who plays first base.

"You know I'm a speedster," assured left fielder Jennifer Buttery. "I'm lightning on the bases."

Buttery also had a message for her teammates: "Let's have a good attitude this game--no mouthing off."

She thought about that and added: "Someone will have to staple my mouth shut, or I'm in trouble."

It was clear that the sport had come a long way since the polite Girls Athletic Assn. days when Vicki Shandy played.

"Take her (the fielder) out, knock her on her nose," said John Reynolds, an assistant coach, instructing the team what to do when running the bases.

"Yeah, dump her," echoed an enthusiastic Chief.

Santa Fe finished with a 24-4 record last season after losing to Notre Dame of Riverside in the CIF finals.

But this season, with the arrival of freshman twins Randi and Laura Berg, the Chiefs have been almost unbeatable.

Randi, a shortstop with a .396 batting average, and Laura, a catcher hitting .435, shared the league's most valuable player award. They have played softball since they were 5 and have excelled in national competition as members of a traveling team.

"We knew they were coming up," Lisa Shandy said. "This is the team we've been waiting for."

The twins helped to lead Santa Fe to its first Whitmont League title. The Chiefs were 14-0 in the league, beating archrival La Serna twice. A 1-0 loss to Cerritos is the only blemish on their overall record.

"I've been blessed with an awesome team," said Crain, who teaches typing at the school.

Most of the players, he said, have been together since they were on Bobby Sox teams.

Three of the Chiefs were All-CIF selections last season: Shandy, Jannak, and designated hitter Carie Hanchett.

The game was moments away as Crain gathered the team around him. "OK, ladies, good strong defense," he said. "This is just like another game against La Serna. We can beat this team. They're not invincible."

Cabrillo's record was 21-9-1.

Parents, grandparents, teachers and students, who packed a small grandstand, cheered as Shandy, using a windmill motion that sent her blond hair flying, struck out the first batter to start the game.

But the next batter beat out a hit, causing Vicki Shandy, who also kept the official score book, to resume pacing.

Her daughter, who has thrown 80% of her pitches for strikes this season, got through the first inning. But so did Cabrillo pitcher Karen McCormick after Santa Fe had threatened to score.

Randi Berg ruled the dirt infield. She fielded grounder after grounder with a polished style, then rocketed the ball to first base.

In the dugout, which smelled sweetly of gum, she said: "Gary's not here, and I'm doing perfect."

Gary, a teammate explained, is the boy Randi likes.

The game, tense and scoreless, held the crowd's attention. The candy bars and gum, displayed on a table by the Chiefs' boosters, were going unsold.

A Cabrillo runner reached third with two outs in the fifth inning. But the next batter flied out, and the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"Talk it up," implored Jannak as the Chiefs came in to bat. "You guys don't sound like you want it. Let's go.

In the bottom of the sixth, Laura Berg led off with a bunt single.

Shandy then dribbled a sacrifice bunt. The ball was thrown wildly to first. Berg rounded second and took off for third. The throw there was wild too, enabling Laura to race home with the lead.

Her twin then lined a single to score Shandy.

Crain and the players huddled before the top of the seventh. "Defense!" they yelled.

Shandy had put her hair up in a ponytail. "It makes me more intense," she would explain later.

With her mother aiming a camera at her through the chain-link backstop, Shandy got two quick outs, then allowed a pop single.

"It's not over till the fat lady sings," someone in the crowd cautioned.

A Cabrillo pinch-hitter swung at two of Shandy's best fastballs and missed.

"You got two on her babe!" a fan yelled.

She had three on her after the next pitch, another blur, and Santa Fe, a 2-0 victor, had reached the CIF finals again.

NEXT STEP

Santa Fe will try to win the CIF 2-A title when it plays Hesperia of Riverside County at 6 p.m. Friday at Mayfair Park in Lakewood.

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