Mater Dei players celebrate with their plaque after winning the CIF-SS Division 1 softball championship Saturday.

Mater Dei completes 'amazing' journey by winning Div. 1 title


IRVINE – Mater Dei was tired of walking away with the silver.

The Monarchs advanced to the finals in three of the more prestigious preseason tournaments this spring, but in each case, wound up watching their foes hoist the hardware.

Even in Trinity League play, Mater Dei finished in a three-way tie for second and was forced into a play-in game to earn a guaranteed playoff slot.

But since getting into CIF, no one has played better than the Monarchs.

Mater Dei completed its brutal path to a CIF-SS championship on Saturday night, overwhelming rival Orange Lutheran, 8-2, in the Division 1 finale played at Bill Barber Park.

In capturing the program’s first title since 1998, the Monarchs (27-7) topped five straight league champions, including top-seeded Etiwanda, defending Division 1 champ Norco and second-seeded Orange Lutheran (30-4), a team it had lost to by eight and 11 runs in league play.

“It’s amazing,” said Mater Dei coach Tia Meza, who was the starting pitcher on the school’s last championship-winning team. “We never gave up. We put ourselves in great situation all season long. We knew it didn’t matter what happened in preseason. What happened in league. It only mattered what happened the last few weeks of the season.”

Senior pitcher Gabby Sandoval pitched all 35 postseason innings for the Monarchs and earned her fifth win in the last two-and-a-half weeks. She limited a scorching hot Lancers lineup to only seven hits on Saturday night.

Sandoval struck out four batters, but no two proved to be bigger than a pair in the fifth inning to get Mater Dei out of a bases-loaded jam, and holding onto a 3-2 advantage.

“Just a kid who blossomed really into her own,” Meza said of Sandoval, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in the postseason before Saturday. “The heart and determination that kid has is amazing. She put in so much work to be stronger and knew this was her opportunity to be the horse. She took it by the horns and really owned it.”

The Monarchs tallied 16 hits against Orange Lutheran ace Maddy Dwyer. Yaritza Felix finished with three base hits and three RBI. Donna Friedman also had three hits and drove in a pair of runs. Priscilla Martinez, Maddison Flores and Emma Clark notched two hits a piece.

Leading 4-2 in the top of the seventh, Mater Dei sent eight batters to the plate and collected six base hits for an additional four runs.

Orange Lutheran saw its 18-game winning streak snapped in the final. The Lancers and Monarchs split their four meetings this season. Strangely enough, no game was closer than a six-run margin.

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