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Heartbreaking end to Mission Viejo's bid for title
IRVINE With her hands on her waist, seemingly reliving what had just transpired, Alyssa Palomino made the long walk from the third base dugout to the outfield, where she was met with open arms by teammates Bella Loya and Terra McGowan.
Just yards away, Coach Troy Ybarra tried to console a devastated Kayleen Shafer before walking over and hugging a distraught Taylor McQuillin.
For the first time all season, the Mission Viejo postgame huddle followed a losing effort, something the Diablos had not experienced since May 15 of last year.
Facing a Yucaipa team they had battled and defeated twice before Friday night, the Diablos were shut out for the first time all season, falling to the Thunderbirds, 1-0, in the CIF-SS Division 2 championship game at Bill Barber Park.
“It comes down to breaks, but it was a wonderful, wonderful game,” Ybarra explained. “You got to be able to score and we didn’t score. We had bases loaded in the first inning. Runners in scoring position in the second inning. We hadn’t been shutout all year, and I would’ve never guessed we’d be shutout.”
Mission Viejo finished its campaign with an overall record of 30-1. The Diablos had won 35 consecutive games coming into Friday night, and were a win away from a second consecutive Division 2 title and a wire-to-wire run as the top-ranked team in the county and nation.
With the game a scoreless tied in the fifth, Yucaipa’s Megan Martin kept the inning alive with a double off the left-center field fence, bringing the Thunderbirds’ No. 3 hitter, Jordan Green, to the plate. On a full count, the senior third baseman lined a single to center field, deep enough for Coach David Kivett to wave Martin around third.
Alyssa Palomino’s throw from center beat Martin to the plate, but the sophomore was called safe in what was ruled an obstruction on Shafer for blocking the plate.
“The umpire did say (Shafer) tagged her out, but he called her safe because of obstruction,” Ybarra explained. “I told the umpire the (third base) coach held her up rounding third, and he said she stopped because (Shafer) was blocking the plate.
“We might be in extra inning right now. We’ll never know. You still got to score runs. But to lose that way, it wasn’t right.”
Leading 1-0, Yucaipa pitcher Brooke Bolinger retired the next seven batters she faced before walking Bella Loya in the bottom of the seventh inning with one out. Bailey Roberson’s groundout advanced the runner to second, bringing up Palomino with the game on the line.
The Diablos star center fielder hit a soft line drive to short, ending Mission Viejo’s bid for a perfect season.
Despite the loss, McQuillin, Palomino, Shafer and Roberson turned in one of the best four-year stretches in county history. The Diablos quartet went a collective 106-10 in their four years on campus, and in their junior and senior seasons, put up a remarkable 56-2 clip.
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