Orange Lutheran took advantage of mental lapses and miscues by Lancaster Paraclete and defeated the Spirits, 4-0, in the Southern Section Division V softball championship game Saturday at Barber Park in Irvine.
It was the first title for the fourth-seeded Lancers (23-8), and the seventh trip to the finals for second-seeded Paraclete (22-5), which is still without a title.
The Spirits, who committed a season-high six errors, seemed to drop, bobble or misplay balls at every opportunity, leading to two unearned runs for Orange Lutheran.
The Lancers scored three runs on four hits and two errors in the top of the third and added another run in the fourth on two errors and a sacrifice bunt by senior Nicole Sandberg.
"We make good contact," Lancer Coach Steve Miklos said. "We put a lot of pressure on defenses. We've done that to a lot of teams this year."
The sloppy play was so frustrating for Paraclete catcher Tiffany Forrest to watch, the memory had her choking back tears after the game.
"When you are sitting behind the plate and you can't do anything, it's so hard to watch," Forrest said. "You watch errors being committed and people coming across home plate and you have no control over the situation."
The Lancer defense was nearly perfect as Orange Lutheran recorded its 11th consecutive shutout against a team that had outscored opponents, 42-0, in the playoffs and had recorded shutouts in 11 of its last 12 games.
Orange Lutheran players said they sensed Paraclete was uptight during warmups, so they decided to use it to their advantage. The Lancers had seven hits and put runners on base in every inning but the seventh.
"It didn't look like they were up for the game," Sandberg said. "So we felt if we came out hard we could rattle them."
And even though the Spirits denied having jitters, they had no answer for the errors.
"I haven't seen them this loose all season," Paraclete Coach Margaret Neill said. "Before the game I thought this was our year. But our mental errors killed us."
The Lancers sent nine batters to the plate in the third inning, scoring three runs. Sandberg and Shelly Meardy had RBIs. Sandberg finished with two RBIs.
Senior pitcher Laura Miklos (13-5) gave up two long doubles to Paraclete, but the Spirits had only four hits. Miklos struck out four and walked none and Paraclete failed to get a leadoff hitter on base.
"I didn't feel too much pressure," Miklos said. "We have a good defense, which I know is always there to back me up."