Canyon battles, but Norco escapes with victory


NORCO – Brittany Allen and Gianna Marquecho have struggled at the plate during much of the playoffs. But none of those previous at-bats mattered when they stepped up in the sixth inning Tuesday.

Allen and Marquecho both delivered clutch singles to drive home runs, and the Norco softball team held on to defeat Canyon, 3-1, in a Division 1 semifinal game.

“We have preached all year to them to stay up because it's not always going to be first or second at-bat that matters most,” Cougars coach Rick Robinson said. “It's often the third or fourth one (that) is the biggest.”

Norco (25-8) and Canyon (23-8) were locked in a classic pitching duel through five innings. Norco's Taylor Dockins surrendered just one hit, and Canyon's Hailey Hilburn had allowed two hits through the fifth.

Naomi Hernandez led off Norco's sixth with a sharp single down the left field line. Abby Lockman followed with a single and Mikayla Allee reached on an error as the Cougars loaded the bases with no outs. Hilburn got Kwynn Warner to fly out to shallow left, but Allen ripped a two-run single up the middle to break the deadlock.

“I think I've been trying to do too much,” said Allen, Norco's freshman third baseman. “I made the adjustments and tried to hit the ball hard.”

Marquecho's two-out single to left brought in Allee and helped Norco extend the lead to 3-0. Allen had one hit in her previous 10 trips, and Marquecho was hitless in her past eight. Both struck out four times.

Canyon didn't go away quietly. Rachel DeHart led off the seventh with a single, but Warner and Allee made slick plays to turn a double play. The Comanches got three more singles, the third by Julie Schneider bringing in a run. Leadoff hitter Brianna Betschel stepped in with the tying runs on base, but Dockins got her to foul out for the final out.

Hilburn, who is headed to Utah, allowed six singles.

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