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Esperanza avoids another early exit
Esperanza entered last season's Division 1 playoffs with a state ranking and a Century League title on its resume, and promptly got bounced in the first round by Kennedy.
The Aztecs weren't about to let that happen this season, especially not against Yorba Linda.
Brynley Steele and Loyola Marymount-bound Staphanie Maciel hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to build a four-run lead, and Esperanza pulled away for a 6-3 victory in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs Thursday at Esperanza High.
"We came into the game with a little bit of a different mind-set than last year," Aztecs third baseman Nicole Schroeder said. "Last year, we just thought we had it, and this year we knew it was going to be a battle."
What added to the intensity of the game was it was the first meeting between the crosstown rivals. Yorba Linda is in its second season of varsity softball, but many of the girls on both teams grew up playing with and against each other.
"We've grown up with these girls our whole lives," Maciel said. "I played rec ball with them and travel. I know these girls. We knew it was going to be a tough game.
"I mean, going into first round of CIF you can't take anybody lightly because every team is good. We weren't going to take it lightly."
It looked like the Aztecs (23-6), ranked No. 9 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, would run away with it after taking a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Bryanna Castro led off with a single and eventually scored from third on an illegal pitch by Mustangs ace Paige Von Sprecken. Steele hit a towering two-run shot with two outs and Maciel followed with a solo blast.
Yorba Linda (16-9) chipped away at Esperanza's lead. Raelynn Galindo had an RBI single in the top of the second and Amanda Dirks had a two-run single in the top of the third as the Mustangs cut it to 4-3.
Schroeder sealed it for the Aztecs with a two-run homer to dead-center field in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-3.
"Throughout the whole game I saw her pitching that rise ball," Schroeder said. "I told myself, 'If she pitches that to me ... I want it so bad.' I got it."
Esperanza plays Mater Dei in the second round on Tuesday. A coin flip will determine the home team.
In other Division 1 games:
Foothill 4, Simi Valley 2: Junior Kelsey Fredericks went the distance and allowed six hits, while striking out five, to help the visiting Knights (13-13) upset the Marmonte League-champion Pioneers (21-6-1), ranked No. 16 in the state.
Orange Lutheran 5, Roosevelt of Eastvale 1: Biola-bound Heather Hall went 2 for 3 with a home run and Illinois-bound Jade Vecvanags hit a solo shot to lead the thied-seeded Lancers (26-4) past the visiting Mustangs (18-12). Vecvanags also went the distance, allowing two hits and striking out 12 to get the victory.
Canyon 8, Moorpark 0: Freshman Hailey Hilburn pitched a two-hitter with four strikeouts and five walks, Amy Eilefson went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and Youngstown State-bound Kelly Stowe went 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs as the visiting Comanches (18-8) knocked off the Muskateers (18-7-1).
Edison 6, Murrieta Valley of Murrieta 0: Brigham Young-bound Mercedes O'Connor went 3 for 3 with a homer and Stanford-bound Jessica Plaza went 3 for 4 with a double and a home run as the Chargers (24-4) took care of the visiting Nighthawks (14-14).
Mater Dei 7, Redlands East Valley 2: Notre Dame-bound Micaela Arizmendi went 3 for 4 with a triple and two RBIs to lift the host Monarchs (17-9).
Pacifica 7, Rosary 0: Ohio State-bound Rebecca Lee went 2 for 4 with an RBI single and Florida-bound Nicole DeWitt, Oklahoma State-bound Erika Campbell and Hawaii, Manoa-bound Kristina Akiona all homered to lift the second-seeded Mariners (27-2) over the visiting Royals (18-12).
Los Alamitos 4, Upland 1: Loyola Marymount-bound Alex Finie and Mattie Scheelie each hit two-run homers as the fourth-seeded Griffins (23-6) eliminated the visiting Highlanders (13-7).
In Division 2:
Mission Viejo 18, West Covina 1: Sara Higa went 3 for 4 with two homers, Shianne Ybarra went 3 for 4 with a homer, Janelle Gusiff went 3 for 4 with a homer and Alysha Everett went 2 for 5 with a homer to lead the top-seeded Diablos (23-5).
In Division 4:
Ocean View 7, Northview of Covina 0: Hawaii-bound Brittany Hitchcock pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts for the host Seahawks (16-9). Hitchcock also drove in three runs and Toby Salzman went 3 for 4 with three RBIs.
La Habra 18, Woodcrest Christian of Riverside 0: Hope Moreno went 4 for 4 with three doubles and a home run and Michigan State-bound Shanin Thomas went 3 for 3 with a home run as the host Highlanders (21-8) ripped the Royals (17-7).
Sunny Hills 3, Indio 0: Riley Nahrwold pitched a two-hitter with seven strikeouts for the Lancers (15-9) to shut out the visiting Rajahs (19-9).
Follow Carlos Arias at twitter.com/LosOCVarsity