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Mater Dei topples top-seeded Etiwanda

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

SANTA ANA - Mater Dei used timely hitting and a strong pitching effort by Gabby Sandoval to knock off top-seeded Etiwanda, 2-1, at Thornton Park on Tuesday in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1 softball playoffs.

“We are not even paying attention to what seeding and what's coming up. It’s more about what's in our dugout,” said Mater Dei coach Tia Meza.

Etiwanda (29-3) came in with one of the state’s best offenses, having hit 65 home runs entering Tuesday’s action. Sandoval neutralized the Eagles, pitching a three-hitter and allowing two hits and one run.

“She was on fire,” Meza said. “She got strikeouts when she needed it and ground balls to let her defense help her out.”

The Monarchs (25-7) will be the home team for its quarterfinals game against Great Oak of Temecula on Thursday.

Etiwanda’s Briana Wheeler matched Sandoval through the first four scoressless innings, and the Eagles scored first in the fifth. Annika Villegas drawing a leadoff walk, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI single by Candace Haliburton.

The Monarchs broke through in bottom of the fifth. Nyomi Jones was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a fielder's choice, took third on a passed ball and came home on a single by Yartiza Felix.

Mater Dei took the lead in the sixth when Hannah Wessel hit a one out single and Maddison Flores crushed a triple over the head of the left fielder. Flores was thrown out at the plate trying for an inside-the-park home run.

While Flores’ hit would have been a no-doubter home run in most parks, the spacious field at Thornton Park played to Mater Dei’s advantage on defense.

“We knew it was going to be a tougher game (at Thornton Park) than it was going to be at (our) home,” said Etiwanda coach David Masucci. “They played us back (in the outfield), and we had to change our swings and we are a free-swinging team. When you take away our strength, it’s going to be a tough game.”

Despite losing in the second round, Etiwanda tied the school record for wins with 29.

“They all came in as freshman and stuck together the whole time,” Masucci said. “It was by far the closest team we’ve had since I have been here.”

Mater Dei is on a roll in the postseason after losing in the first round of the playoffs the past two years.

“Right now, we are clicking on all cylinders,” Meza said.

Great Oak defeated Huntington Beach, 4-1, on Thursday.


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