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Sailors rally for victory

High School Softball

Costa Mesa plays Newport Harbor tough, but Tars move on to La Quinta Tournament championship game.

March 22, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer…)

COSTA MESA — After winning its first two games at the La Quinta Tournament, Coach Tony Qualin said his Newport Harbor High softball team had already clinched a first-place finish in its pool.

That didn't mean Qualin wanted the Sailors to play like the game was virtually meaningless.

They were nearly upset in their final pool-play game Tuesday but did just enough to win against a Newport-Mesa district foe. Sophomore Breanna Lopez scored on a wild pitch in the top of the seventh inning and the Sailors escaped against Costa Mesa, 4-3, at Costa Mesa High.

The Sailors (10-1) will play at the host Aztecs in the tournament championship game Friday. They'll likely have to play better if they want to take home the championship hardware.

"We didn't get the big hits when we needed them today," Qualin said. "We just had a lot of things go wrong. We steal a base and the runner slides by the base. A lot of things didn't work out for us today. I don't squeeze with a left-handed batter. We had two chances when I had a runner on third where I'd definitely squeeze if I'd have had a right-handed batter. It just didn't work out that way."

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Neither team led by more than a run. The Sailors broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh against Costa Mesa (1-7) and starting pitcher Tamy Cerrato, a senior.

Costa Mesa Coach Nichole Maddox said she was proud of Cerrato, her No. 2 pitcher who before Tuesday hadn't pitched a complete game.

"She did really well," Maddox said. "We saw her starting to get tired a little bit, but she pushed her way through. She relied on her defense, which we always like."

Yet the inning started off as Newport Harbor sophomore Bella Secaira (four for four with one run battled in) hit a hard shot under the glove of the shortstop. Lopez's fly ball to left field was dropped, but the Mustangs recovered in time to force out Secaira at second base.

But Kendall Brennan and Hope Nokes both walked to lead the bases, and Lopez came home on a wild pitch.

She missed home plate at first, but with a few Sailors supporters frantically yelling at her, she went back to tag home before the Mustangs could react.

Lopez had also had the big hit in the top of the third, a two-out double to left that scored Hattie Marshall and Secaira and gave the Sailors a 3-2 lead. She said initially the Sailors may have underestimated the struggling Mustangs, but those thoughts were quickly erased.

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