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No. 1 Pacifica Has to Scramble to Beat Canyon


When Pacifica chose not to play Division I softball this season--instead staying in Division III for smaller schools--most people in the softball community conceded the Southern Section title to the Mariners before the season began.

Ranked No. 1 in the county, the state and the nation, top-seeded Pacifica seemed like a lock.

But the "can't-lose" team nearly did on Thursday. The Mariners survived Canyon, tying the score in the bottom of the seventh and winning in the ninth, 2-1, to advance to Tuesday's section semifinals.

Pacifica will play Palm Desert, a 3-2 winner over Ridgecrest Burroughs.

After quarterfinal losses the past two seasons on heart-wrenching errors, Pacifica (28-1-1) got over its biggest hurdle--mental and physical--by catching the break of the year.

A dropped fly ball with one out in the seventh inning enabled Amanda Freed to score from second base to tie the score at 1-1. Two innings later, Tiffany Wallace took it upon herself to bunt with a runner at third, and Toni Mascarenas scored the winning run.

"We go into every game saying we're going to play all seven innings, win or lose," said Mascarenas, who bounded into Coach Rob Weil's arms after crossing the plate as Freed sought out Wallace.

Mascarenas opened the ninth with a single and took third when Freed scorched a single past third base. With runners at second and third, Wallace took a pitch and looked for the squeeze bunt. She didn't get the sign. She bunted anyway.

Losing pitcher Veronica Lopez (16-6) had no chance on the play.

"It was," Lopez said, "a perfect bunt."

And a perfect ending for Pacifica, which lost to Los Alamitos in 1995 in nine innings and Camarillo in 1996 in 10, both by 1-0 scores, both on throwing errors.

"We got a break with the left fielder [in the seventh inning]," Weil said. "That's something we normally don't get. Obviously, this is our year to get a break or two.

Pacifica won its first-round game over Valencia, 1-0, with a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh. In that game, Freed (18-0) pitched a perfect game.

Lopez, who gave up only two hits through six innings, appeared primed to eliminate Pacifica, but Freed led off the seventh with a single. She stole second base, and an out later, scored when Wallace's opposite field line drive to freshman Lisa Hatter was dropped for a two-base error.

"I heard she's a freshman," said Wallace, a sophomore. "That's a mistake young players make. Last year, I had a couple of those. I kind of feel sorry for her--I can empathize with her."

Debbie Mastergeorge followed with a single, but a blown squeeze and strikeout ended the inning.

Freed struck out 13 and walked two. She gave up only two hits--both doubles by Lopez. The second came after Chrystal Hewitt's leadoff walk in the sixth inning with Lopez taking third on the throw. But Canyon (20-13-1) failed with no outs and Lopez on third, when it couldn't push across a second run.

Canyon went 0 for 5 with runners on base, including four strikeouts.

In another Division III:

Kennedy 3, Torrance 0--Adrianna Wilson had an RBI double in the sixth inning as Kennedy defeated Torrance in the quarterfinals. Wilson's double came as part of a three-run sixth inning for the Fighting Irish (23-5).

Traci Hensel pitched a two-hitter and had seven strikeouts.

Kennedy next faces Glendora St. Lucy's, a 2-1 winner over Hacienda Heights Los Altos in nine innings.

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