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Moorpark Book Slammed Shut by Saddleback

WSC softball playoffs:Future looks bright for Northern Division champions after 2-1 loss in regional.


MOORPARK — Perhaps a state championship berth would have been too much too soon for the Moorpark College softball team.

After all, building a program into a state championship contender should take longer than a year, shouldn't it?

The Raiders' storybook season ended with a loss Saturday, two victories shy of a state berth, but first-year coaches Gil Mendoza and Darwin Tolzin weren't disappointed with the effort.

Saddleback overcame a one-run deficit to beat Moorpark, 2-1, in a regional game to advance to the state tournament in Fresno.

Moorpark was forced to work its way through the loser's bracket of the four-team regional after a 6-0 setback to Saddleback on Friday. The Raiders, who defeated Hancock, 7-2, earlier Saturday, needed to defeat the Gauchos twice to advance to the state tournament.

Nonetheless, the future is promising for Moorpark (32-11), which won the Western State Conference Northern Division title and made its first regional appearance since 1994.

"Moorpark is back on the map," said Tolzin, an assistant who assumes the majority of the coaching responsibilities.

"We have 27 [recruits] we're talking to and I think we've got good commitments from at least six."

New recruits and a roster with 14 freshmen spells a rosy outlook.

But the future wasn't Saturday.

The Gauchos (35-13-1), seeded No. 12 in a field of 16 teams despite their No. 10 state ranking, played error-free defense behind ace Tara Kroener.

Moorpark starter Naomi Qualls kept Saddleback quiet early, allowing only a two-out single in the second through the fourth innings.

But in the fifth, the Gauchos tied the score, 1-1, on Betsy Holman's leadoff double and a two-out single by Michelle Thompson.

Saddleback scored the winning run an inning later. With one out, Kroener reached on a throwing error by third baseman Salina Lopez, who fielded the grounder cleanly but lost her grip during the throw, the ball dropping behind her shoulder.

After a single by Tracy Habiger, Nicole Brunk ripped a double to center field to drive in Kroener.

Brunk's double chased Qualls, who gave up 11 hits in the Raiders' win over Hancock.

Considering that Qualls had pitched earlier and ace Jaclyn Aranda (22-7) was fresh, Qualls' start against Saddleback was somewhat surprising. But Tolzin believes in riding momentum.

"When we play back-to-back-to-back games, I'm going to go with one pitcher until she's got nothing left," Tolzin said.

In relief, Aranda faced three batters, walking one, striking out one and inducing a foul popup.

Moorpark managed only three hits off Kroener (29-11), who struck out four and walked three.

The Raiders, seeded No. 4, scored in the first inning on Delaina Talili's single to right field.

Against Hancock (39-17-1), Moorpark had nine hits and led, 5-0, after three innings.

Candace Roberts, Shelly Teverbaugh and Aranda each had two hits.

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