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Four Ways To Win

Pacifica's Quartet of Auelua, Freed, Goessling and Mascarenas Might Have What It Takes To Get The Mariners Over The Hump In The Playoffs

March 11, 1997|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GARDEN GROVE — Pacifica has talent. Lots of talent. Talent for years to come. Toni Mascarenas and Amanda Freed are, arguably, the best players in this year's senior and junior class.

Toria Auelua is among the five best sophomores, and there's a good argument she's among the top three.

Shawna Goessling is among the top five freshmen, and might be the best all-around player in the ninth grade.

"They're real solid and don't have any real weaknesses," Doug Myers, coach of defending Division I champion Mater Dei, said of Pacifica. "I don't like the word scared, but I respect them a lot. They're as solid as anyone we'll play all year."

The task of Pacifica's Big Four is to lead their teammates beyond the disappointments of their past. The last three years, Pacifica has a combined record of 74-13-1, but has lost in the quarterfinals or semifinals in the ninth or 10th inning on the smallest of errors. Except that when Pacifica is involved, there's no such thing as a small error. All extra-inning losses, all 1-0.

"It just seems we're a team that can't make a mistake and get away with it," Coach Rob Weil said. "If we make a mistake late in the game, it costs us the game. . . . The last three years, we have not had a break in the playoffs."

Three years ago, Marina made a mistake that gave the Mariners a runner at third base with the No. 2 and 3 hitters coming to the plate. They couldn't score. "And we make one stupid mistake," Weil said, "and it costs us the ball game."

Two years ago, Freed, who made no more than three errors all that season, bobbled a ball and threw late to first base, allowing Los Alamitos to score the winning run with two outs.

Last year, a ball thrown from first base to third goes under the fielder's glove without hitting the ground and the runner scored.

"The bus ride home from Camarillo last year was an absolute disaster--it was like somebody died," Weil said. "We were just devastated. The bad thing is we had opportunities to win. We had runners at second and third with our fourth and fifth hitters at the plate and one out, and we couldn't score. It's just one of those things."

It's one of those things that's getting awfully old.

"I'm always thinking it's not going to be something so little that's going to lose the game for us--it's going to be a home run or something--but it's usually a routine ground ball, or someone should catch the ball and they don't," Mascarenas said. "It's something we practice for and practice for, and in the game, we can't perform."

But the pattern is there. And it's up to Mascarenas, Freed, Auelua and Goessling--the class of their classes--to lead Pacifica to the promised land.

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Perhaps no current senior in Orange County has been more consistent and well-rounded than Mascarenas, who also plays shortstop and third base. She was the Mariners' best pitcher as a freshman, throwing five consecutive shutouts (three in the playoffs) before losing the semifinal to Marina. During her sophomore and junior years--splitting time in the pitcher's circle with Freed--she proved herself to be one of the area's best defensive players, too.

She is as diverse as they come, offensively and defensively. She batted fifth as a freshman, and in the 10-inning, 1-0 semifinal loss to Marina pitcher Marcy Crouch (who went on to win the section title with a one-hitter), Mascarenas had three of her team's six hits. Mascarenas batted third as a sophomore, and first as a junior.

She's a three-time Times all-county player. Her career batting average is .378, she has scored 73 runs and driven in 54. Her career pitching totals are 37-8 with a 0.17 earned-run average over 338 innings.

She is, simply, intimidating.

"Toni and [La Habra catcher] Jenny Topping are the two scariest people to pitch to," Mater Dei's Myers said.

In a showdown last season against league rival Garden Grove, Mascarenas hit a run-scoring double off the fence at Mark Twain School against Kathy Moore, one of the county's better pitchers. However, a runner left too soon, so the runner was out and Mascarenas went back to the batter's box. A pitch later, Mascarenas homered, just above the spot where she had doubled.

"I'm the type of person who never gives up," Mascarenas said. "Usually, what I do is never good enough, even if it's the best I can do. I'm my own worst enemy and my own worst critic. I get so frustrated with myself."

So she is trying to be less negative this year, and hopes to take her game inside the pitching circle to another level before embarking on a collegiate career at Arizona, the defending NCAA champion.

"I want to compete better mentally when I pitch," she said. "I'm a senior, and I want to go out showing everybody that I want to be on top, that I'm gunning for everybody."

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