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SOFTBALL

Tirre an Overachieving Understudy

May 23, 2000|MARTIN HENDERSON

The last thing Rose Tirre expected when the season began was to be the center of attention. Her team, San Clemente, had one of the best pitchers around, Ashley Haight. But six games into the season, five of them losses, Haight quit the team.

Her backup, Brooke Dixon, was coming off shoulder surgery. Coach Bill Everhart turned to Tirre, who had not thrown a competitive pitch since eighth grade. San Clemente bounced back to finish 14-14, their season ending Friday in a 1-0, 10-inning loss to Troy. In the process, the Tritons won their first South Coast League championship in 12 years, sharing it with Trabuco Hills with a 7-3 record.

Tirre went 14-4 with a 0.63 earned-run average.

"I really didn't have a choice," Tirre said of being thrust into an uneasy position, which included being named a captain by Everhart. "I knew they needed me, so I was going to do all I could.

"At first, I was intimidated by other girls, and had no idea what to expect, or how well I was going to do. I just went out there and pitched.

"I thought we were going to have a tough year after Ashley left. The girls didn't give up, and that's what pushed me to work harder. That's what made it happen--they never gave up at all."

The Tritons' first title since 1986 came the hard way, too. In addition to the loss of Haight and the injury to Dixon, third baseman Lisa Britto--who was batting .328 at the time--broke her arm just a few games into the season, and shortstop Ricci Lugo suffered a hairline fracture below her knee in the Garden Grove tournament in the season's fourth week.

Britto, replaced by sophomore Morgan Poppler from the junior varsity, missed 18 games. Lugo, a team captain, missed one league game before insisting that she play.

Lugo had a .992 fielding percentage at shortstop, and made most of the plays behind Tirre. "We averaged a double play per game," Everhart said.

Tirre, who had only 31 strikeouts in 134 1/3 innings, needed a solid defense behind her.

"I wasn't afraid to let players hit the ball because I had a great defense behind me," Tirre said. "That's what did it. There was no possible way I could have done it without them."

Tirre did not play last season in order to focus on her grades. She played this year "to have fun."

Little did she know. . . .

"That attitude changed when Ashley quit," Everhart said. "I laid it on the line--'We need a pitcher, you're the type of individual who can get the job done,' and she did it. She stepped up, not only as a pitcher, but at the plate and as a team captain. Ashley and Ricci were captains, and when Ashley quit, I made Rose a captain. Between them, they did a tremendous job--everyone had written us off.

"Regardless of what happened in the playoffs, the girls have had a great, great season."

THE BIG DANCE

Foothill agreed to play its first-round game last week on Thursday, instead of Friday, because the original date conflicted with the Senior Ball of its opponent, Capistrano Valley.

It obviously meant a lot to Capistrano Valley players, who gave Foothill Coach Joe Gonzalez a card before the game. Among the sentiments was one from pitcher Jillian Miles: "Thank you very much for switching the game for us. Hope we didn't ruin your dinner plans."

Foothill annually has a team and family barbecue the night before its first playoff game. But if Cougar players were appreciative of Foothill, which won, 2-0, Gonzalez was equally appreciative of the note.

"They asked our school, our school said yes, and they could have left it at that," Gonzalez said. "It's a pretty classy, courteous thing to do. It's nice to know that somebody's appreciative when you do something. They didn't have to do that."

The Cougar baseball team wasn't so fortunate with its first-round opponent. Rialto refused to change dates. The result? The Cougars scored four runs in the first inning, one in the second and third, and won, 6-5.

AROUND THE BASES

* Among the outstanding first-round performances was an overlooked jewel by Villa Park. The Spartans were on the road against the No. 1 team in Division III, Hacienda Heights Wilson, and lost in nine innings, 1-0. The winners had only three hits against freshman Kindal Kincaid. One of those hits preceded two errors in the ninth inning. It was a loss, but it was a step forward.

Another outstanding performance was Tustin's victory over Santa Margarita. As champion from a weak Golden West League, the Tillers didn't command a lot of confidence, but Diana La Riva pitched a three-hitter and had an RBI against an at-large team that appeared to have the talent to reach the quarterfinal round, at least.

* Second-year Coach Robert Wiebort was sure that Trabuco Hills' win over Woodbridge was the school's first playoff victory since 1987. But in 1996, the Mustangs upset Sunset League champion Fountain Valley, 3-1, behind a couple of big hits from Haley Glover and Jessica Jarnigan. Still, playoff highlights have been few and far between.

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