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PAUL RODRIGUEZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mater Dei pitcher Lauren Persi, second from left, gets high-fives from her teammates as they celebrate after beating Orange Lutheran, 4-3, in 10 innings Tuesday.

Mater Dei wins fight for first in Trinity League

STAFF WRITER

It was the epitome of a Trinity League contest, and seven innings weren’t enough to produce a victor.

Facing a three-run deficit on the road, fifth-ranked Mater Dei did what it’s done all season: claw its way back into the ballgame.

Monarchs junior pitcher Lauren Persi tossed eight shutout innings in relief and second baseman Hannah Wessel went 3 for 5 at the plate and knocked in the winning run in the top of the 10th, giving Mater Dei a hardfought 4-3 victory over No. 4 Orange Lutheran in a playoff-like clash between Trinity League foes on Tuesday afternoon.

“That’s really what makes this league so great is that every game can be like that, no matter who we’re playing,” Mater Dei coach Tia Meza said. “It’s a testament to the league in itself and how strong we are.”

With just one league game remaining on its schedule, the Monarchs (19-7, 6-1) stand alone atop the Trinity League standings. Coming into Tuesday’s showdown, both Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran entered the game with just one league loss each, giving the winner a leg up as the regular season nears its end.

The Lancers (23-3, 4-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the third inning as Adrianna Millan, Desiree Buboi and Lauren Espalin each hit solo shots off of Mater Dei’s Gabby Sandoval.

Espalin’s lead-off blast in the third marked the end of Sandoval’s day, as Persi relieved her fellow junior right-hander.

“I knew I just needed to go in for my team, hit my pitches and try not to let any runs score,” Persi explained.

The junior was phenomenal in relief, scattering four hits in eight innings of work, never allowing an Orange Lutheran base runner past second base.

Trailing 3-1 headed into the seventh inning, the Monarchs’ lone run came on Wessel’s solo home run in the fourth.

Emma Clark and Kelli Godin opened the seventh with infield singles and they stood on second and third base with two outs as Morganne Flores stepped to the plate.

Facing a full count, Mater Dei’s senior catcher drilled a two-run single to center field, tying the score, 3-3, and sending it to extras.

In the 10th inning with two outs and Priscilla Martinez on second base, Wessel notched her third hit of the game, blooping a single to right field on another full count, scoring what proved to be the winning run.

“Two outs all season long, we’ve got it done,” Meza said. “It’s great to know – and the kids know – we can do that. They believe. It’s never too late, no matter what it is, it’s never too late.

Mater Dei can claim the league title outright with a win over Rosary next Tuesday.

In the Freeway League:

La Habra 1, Fullerton 0 (11 innings): Junior Nikki Butler drove in Jessie Gomez for the winning run in the 11th for the visiting Highlanders (18-7, 7-1). La Habra pitcher Janelle Rodriguez struck out 17 while limiting the Indians (19-7, 4-3) to three hits in her complete-game effort.

In the Empire League:

No. 3 Pacifica 9, Kennedy 3: Dominique Espinoza, Irieanna Naea and Hannah Martinez each hit a home run for the Mariners (18-4-1), who improved to 7-0 in league.

In the Century Conference:

No. 9 Yorba Linda 5, Foothill 3: The Mustangs scored three runs in the first innings, giving Ciara Stapp plenty of cushion to win her 15th game of the season in the circle.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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