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Garden Grove's Petrie is softball coach of the year
John Petrie has been part of five national championship travel ball teams in his 35 years of coaching, but he said there was something special about coaching Garden Grove's softball team in the CIF-SS Division 4 championship game June 1 at Barber Park in Irvine.
The students, parents and alumni came out in droves to support the Argonauts, who were making their first appearance in the finals since 1990.
"We won five national championships in travel ball," Petrie said, "and that (Division 4) championship game was more exciting and the energy from the fans and the kids was super exciting.
"In travel ball, you might be on your third game on a Sunday for the championship and the games just come fast. You don't have a lot of time. You play a game, wait a couple hours and play another game. This is kind of more intense because you have to wait three or four days to play the next game. It's kind of murder.
"The faculty and students did a great job getting behind the team. I was really surprised how many people were at the game and the support they gave us."
Petrie has coached at Garden Grove off and on the past 14 years, mostly at the lower levels. He has been the varsity softball coach the past six years. He led the Argos to a co-Garden Grove League championship in 2007 and another one in 2012. He was the only coach in the county to guide a team to the finals and he is The Register's 2012 softball coach of the year.
"I knew we had a special kid in Jasmine (Antunez)," Petrie said. "I thought we had a chance to win it the year before and I thought we had a chance to win it again this year. She had a great team behind her, so I really liked our chances this year. I thought we played well even in the championship game. It was a shame we lost the game, but unfortunately there is only one winner and one loser."
Antunez, who has signed with Cal State Fullerton, and Kaiser of Fontana ace Krystel Gabbard had an epic pitching duel in the Division 4 title game that needed 11 innings to determine a winner.
Antunez retired 16 consecutive batters before giving up a one-out single in the 10th. The end came in heart-breaking fashion for the Argos. Kaiser's No. 9 hitter, Alyssa Dilay, beat out an infield single to lead off the bottom of the 11th. A sacrifice moved the runner to second and a ground out moved her to third. A pitch got away from Antunez and Kaiser scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch to with the championship.
"I thought both teams played well," Petrie said. "I don't think either one of us would have wanted a tie. If that's the way it would have ended, we would have accepted it."
Petrie called Antunez the best high school player he's ever coached.
"Jasmine was just everything for the team, a great defensive player, a great pitcher, a great hitter," Petrie said. "She did everything and she did it the right way. She led by example. She wasn't a real boisterous kid where she would be screaming in the dugout or anything. She was just a great leader by example.
"She is the best player in high school I have ever coached. We had another player (Caitlin) Bradac that was a very good player before her, so we were fortunate to have a pitcher come in right behind her. I'm just very lucky to have coached her."
It was a memorable season for Garden Grove, but Petrie said he learned a lot about his team from a season-opening loss to Carson.
"I remember our first loss to Carson in our very first game," Petrie said. "We got beat, 6-0. We just didn't hit the ball. Jasmine gave up some pretty big hits, but I still knew we had it in us. I just figured it would take some time and we'd turn it around. I'm really proud of the girls for turning it around."
Petrie said he can't pick a favorite from all the teams he's coached.
"I think we've had very good teams all six years," Petrie said. "I can't say this is a better team. My very first year, that was a great team. The next year we had another good team. I wouldn't say one team was a lot better than the other. I just think these girls got along the best and they played the best in the big games."
Petrie, whose coaching staff includes Ray Orta and Steve Amaya, almost missed out on coaching the Argos in 2012.
"I plan on coming back (next year)," Petrie said. "I actually retired at the end of last season. I was going to retire. I enjoy coaching. I was going to let somebody else run the program while it was still strong and give them a jump start because I knew we were going to be strong again.
"I asked my (athletic director) if I could have some time to think about it. I told him to let me know when he was going to have to start looking for a new coach, so I wanted to give him as much time as possible if I didn't come back. I guess I just had a change of heart."
Garden Grove is glad he did.