Mater Dei 's, Maddie Flores, left, makes the out at 2nd base against La Habra's, Naya Pola in the 1st inning of play during the Championship of the Alan Dugard Classic held at Bill Barber Park in Irvine.

Motivated La Habra wins Dugard Classic title


IRVINE – La Habra coach Steve Harrington sat his team down after losing to Orange Lutheran on March 5 in the Brea Olinda Tournament.

He told the players to remember the bitter feeling they had, because one day they’d be back in another big tournament championship game with a chance to come out on top.

They took advantage of their opportunity Saturday night, edging No. 3 Mater Dei, 6-5, in the Alan Dugard Woodbridge Classic Gold Bracket final.

The Highlanders took an early 6-0 lead after a five-run third, but Mater Dei and its lethal bats came alive to nearly spoil the redemption.

“Our kids are very resilient,” Harrington said. “They’re very confident, they play hard with a lot of heart.”

Mater Dei had just walloped Stanford signee Maddy Dwyer for six runs and shut out No. 4 Orange Lutheran in the semifinals, and pitcher Gabby Sandoval was 4-0 with 27 strikeouts and one run allowed in her previous four starts.

So it might be odd to call a 13-win team an underdog, but that’s what No. 6 La Habra seemed to be Saturday night.

The Highlanders proved otherwise.

“I know (Mater Dei is ranked) something in the state and whatever in the country, that doesn’t bother my kids,” Harrington said. “Our kids don’t know about that. The only thing our kids know how to do is play the game. They don’t care about the newspaper clippings, they don’t care about where they’re ranked.”

La Habra (14-1) chased Sandoval in the third after Janelle Rodriguez, who also started the game, scored two with a two-out single. Sandoval finished with five runs allowed (four earned) in her 2 2/3 innings.

Mater Dei (15-3) answered the Highlanders with four runs of their own in the bottom of the third. Kelli Godin, Neli Cesares-Maher, Donna Friedman and Emma Clark combined for four singles and three RBI in that inning.

“It was really good to see them fight and come back until the very end, give themselves opportunities to win the game,” Mater Dei coach Tia Meza said.

Rodriguez allowed four runs on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts in her three innings. Hannah Johnson then pitched into the sixth inning. Harley Wells inherited runners on first and second with nobody out when she relieved Johnson in the seventh. She allowed just one unearned run to get the save.

Johnson pitched seven innings in the semifinal against No. 10 Villa Park, allowing three hits and striking out nine in a 6-2 win.

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