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KYUSUNG GONG, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
El Modena's Marina Marzolino, left, slides safely past Mater Dei catcher Morganne Flores for an inside-the-park home run during a CIF-SS Division 1 playoff 1 game Thursday.

El Modena piles up the runs in first-round blowout

STAFF WRITER

Coming out of a loaded Crestview League, El Modena figured to be a tough opponent for any team in the postseason, but Thursday’s performance was still a bit shocking to witness.

The Vanguards scored 12 runs in the first two innings and tallied 18 hits in a startling 18-3 victory over Mater Dei in a CIF-SS Division 1 playoff game at Thornton Park in Santa Ana.

“We’re all just real proud of them,” El Modena coach Steve Harrington said of his squad after the game. “They displayed so much courage and fire today. I was just really, really impressed with them.”

With the win, the Vanguards (19-8) advanced to Tuesday’s second round where they will play Huntington Beach, which topped Cypress, 1-0, on Thursday.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Harrington added. “Our kids are excited, not burnt out. They’re having fun and they have a lot of confidence. It’s just a great group of kids that really works hard.”

All nine of the Vanguards starters had at least one hit, and eight crossed the plate at some point. Becca Perez reached Thornton Park’s deep fences in the first inning, roping an inside-the-park grand slam to right-center field to highlight a six-run inning.

Marina Marzolino followed suit in the second, driving in three runs on an inside-the-park homer that ignited another six-run inning. After just two frames, El Modena had sprinted out to a 12-2 lead.

“That was a big deal for us because when start off well, everything after that is good,” said Marzolino, who finished 4 for 4 with four RBI and four runs scored. “We’re very underrated compared to everyone else. People don’t really believe in us, but it’s fun.”

The Vanguards scored at least one run in all five innings, and Marzolino and Nicole Yniguez combined to throw five quality innings. Perez finished 3 for 4 with five RBI, while Molly Sturdivant and Cameryn O’Grady also accounted for multiple hits and RBI.

Mater Dei finished its season with a 19-10 record, winning a share of the Trinity League title.

“They came out, put pressure on us defensively and they did a good job executing and we didn’t,” Monarchs coach Tia Meza said. “It’s always tough for the seniors (when they lose their last game). But they did have a good year. They played well during the year, were able to win league, some great games. Today just wasn’t our day.”

Also in Division 1:

Orange Lutheran 13, Long Beach Millikan 1: The Lancers scored 10 runs in the first inning, and sophomore pitcher Maddy Dwyer allowed just one hit over five innings.

Los Alamitos 10, Kennedy 0: Taylor Covington went 3 for 3 with three RBI, while Katya Duvall silenced the Fighting Irish bats. The Griffins will play Orange Lutheran on Tuesday.

In Division 2:

Westlake 1, La Habra 0 (12 innings): Warriors pitcher Meehra Nelson went the distance and struck out 23 to win a pitchers’ battle with the Highlanders’ Janelle Rodriguez, who struck out 14.

In Division 3:

San Clemente 5, Northwood 3: Kelsey Horton’s three-run blast in the fifth gave the Tritons the lead, and they held on against the Timberwolves. San Clemente senior Lauren Kane pitched 62/3 innings of relief and did not allow a run.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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