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Blumfield Delivers KO

City softball: Senior's run-scoring single in 11th sends El Camino Real to championship game and knocks out San Pedro, 1-0.


Players prayed on the bench and alumni called for inning-by-inning updates via cellular phone.

And, after almost three hours of grueling, emotion-packed softball, Cara Blumfield answered the prayers and the call, delivering a run-scoring single in the bottom of the 11th inning to give El Camino Real a 1-0 victory over San Pedro in a City Championship semifinal Tuesday at South Gate Park.

The Boston College-bound shortstop punched an outside pitch up the middle to score Kristi Nicklaus from second base and propel the top-seeded Conquistadores (23-3) into a championship-game showdown with second-seeded Carson (24-7) next Tuesday at UCLA's Easton Stadium.

It was Blumfield's third hit of the game and 141st of her remarkable career.

"Who could have asked for anything more than Blumfield up in that situation?" asked Coach Neils Ludlow, whose team advances to the final for the 12th time in his 15-year career.

Carson, which defeated Banning, 7-2, on Tuesday, will make its first appearance in the championship game after ending a three-game losing streak in the semifinals.

El Camino Real, which avenged a 5-0 loss to San Pedro in last year's final, seeks its 10th title.

"We still feel it's a privilege to be playing there," said Nicklaus, one of four seniors to be making their fourth consecutive appearance in the final. "We don't take it for granted. We're excited."

For the second consecutive season, El Camino Real had to work overtime to advance.

Last year, it took 16 innings and 3 1/2 hours to outlast Banning, 3-2, at South Gate.

"I'm glad I'm not coming back to this park again," Blumfield said.

El Camino Real and San Pedro have dominated the section throughout the 1990s. The Conquistadores have won five championships, the Pirates four.

"It's too bad this game had to be played here, today," Coach Tony Dobra of San Pedro said. "It would have been nice to face them in the final."

The Conquistadores had outscored 17 previous City opponents, 134-1, but again had problems against sophomore right-hander Natalie Tam (17-5), who limited them to four hits last year in the final.

Tam, who had not allowed an earned run in six career playoff games, struck out eight, allowed seven hits and escaped several jams.

With no one out in the fourth, Nicklaus was thrown out at the plate attempting to score from second on a single to center by Blumfield.

To make matters worse, Christina Enea was thrown out at the plate moments later when Ashley Redlin hit a one-out grounder to third.

Redlin (16-3), a senior right-hander, struck out 10, walked three and allowed five hits. She too had to work out of trouble on several occasions.

Redlin stranded five runners in scoring position, and wriggled out of a bases-loaded situation in the fourth.

With two out and a runner on second in the sixth, Michelle Medina of San Pedro hit what appeared to be a run-scoring single to right. Right fielder Nicklaus fielded the sharply hit ball and threw out Medina at first to end the inning.

Jacqui Goodchild led off the 11th for El Camino Real with a bunt single and was forced out at second when Nicklaus grounded to shortstop.

Nicklaus went to second on a walk to Enea, setting up Blumfield's heroics.

As Blumfield stepped to the plate in the 11th, she didn't consider failure.

"I wasn't thinking anything up there," Blumfield said.

That's because, for the Conquistadores, losing was unthinkable.


* SOUTHERN SECTION PLAYOFFS: A list of wild-card games that will be played this afternoon.

* THE TOP 10: A look at final regular season rankings for teams in the region.

* STATS AND STANDINGS: The final regular season statistical leaders and league standings.

--Page 12

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