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STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Great Oak's Autumn Storms (18) jumps on the plate after her fifth-inning home run against Huntington Beach during the second round of the Division 1 playoffs.

Huntington Beach can't get past Great Oak

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

TEMECULA – Pitching at the hitter-friendly Great Oak softball field probably shouldn’t look as easy as Autumn Storms made it look Tuesday.

Keeping everything on the ground, Storms was dominant in pitching Great Oak to a 4-1 victory over Huntington Beach in a CIF-SS Division 1 second-round playoff game.

Reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in school history, the Wolfpack (21-8) earned a road game against Mater Dei, which knocked off top-seeded Etiwanda.

Great Oak’s short fences and outbound breezes can make any pitcher nervous. Storms, however, solves the problem simply. Facing 24 batters, Storms allowed just one to put the ball in the air, that a line drive to center.

“Fortunately, my drop is my best pitch anyway,” Storms said. “But if you pitch in a field where it’s 185 (feet to the fence) and the wind is blowing, you’ve got to pitch that way.”

Storms was masterful, allowing just two singles. Neither figured in Huntington Beach’s unearned run in the first inning. She threw just 66 pitches, 49 for strikes.

“She’s about the best I’ve seen (at keeping the ball on the ground),” Great Oak coach David Mercado said. “Her ball moves a ton. It’s so hard to elevate.”

Storms wasn’t the only one playing with efficiency.

Shortstop Serena Quinata’s error set the table for Huntington Beach’s lone run in the first. So Quinata wiped that clean on the first at-bat of the bottom of the inning, lifting one over the left-center field fence to even the game.

It was the first of three homers for the Wolfpack, which fully utilized its home-field advantage. Berta Nejo broke the tie with a high, two-run shot to right-center in the third, and Storms added to the lead with a blast down the left-field line in the fifth.

In contrast to Huntington Beach (22-7), Great Oak put 16 balls in the air.

“We’re definitely a team built to play on our home field,” Mercado said.

Huntington Beach starter Ivy Davis had a rough day in the pitcher’s circle, but her legs helped produce the Oilers’ run. After reaching on Quinata’s error, she stole second, took third on Kristina Inouye’s grounder and raced home on a passed ball.

The Oilers’ hits came from Gabby Hirsch in the second inning and Anna Kufta in the seventh.

For Great Oak, the trip to Mater Dei will also be a trip to uncharted territory.

“To get this far is big for the school and the team,” Mercado said. “We’ve got nothing to lose; that’s how I see it.”


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