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Pacifica kept off-balance by O'Leary, falls to Valencia
VALENCIA - The dread first hit Valencia pitcher Shea O’Leary on Saturday. Her sinuses started clogging. Her throat was a bit tender. Her body began to ache.
O’Leary realized she might be coming down with a sickness in the midst of Valencia’s softball postseason run, though her teammates tried to lift her spirits.
“We keep making fun of her because she talks weird now,” said Valencia catcher Ally Shipman, referring to O’Leary’s hoarse voice.
Though clearly not at 100 percent, O’Leary stepped into the circle Tuesday and gave Pacifica a heavy dose of medicine in a 6-0 victory in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
Valencia will face defending Division 1 champion Norco in the quarterfinals Thursday.
O’Leary threw a five-hit shutout, struck out 10 and walked one, helping Valencia advance to its first CIF quarterfinal since 2011 while avenging last year’s second-round playoff loss to Pacifica.
Call it a sick performance.
“I knew I had to come out and do my job, even if I was sick,” O’Leary said. “I knew I had to come out as hard as I could.
“My throat hurt, but it was mind over matter.”
O’Leary used a heavy dose of screwballs and changeups to keep the Pacifica batters off-balanced.
“She definitely did not feel her best in the last 48 hours, but she pitched a great game,” Valencia coach Donna Lee said. “She stayed ahead of batters and hit her spots, and that’s what you have to do in the playoffs.”
O’Leary said she has worked hard to improve her offspeed pitches and said it was the most offspeed pitches she has thrown in a game.
Shipman said it was certainly effective as O’Leary quarantined runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“Oh my gosh, she was amazing,” Shipman said. “She was hitting her spots and mixing up her pitches.”
The playoff fever was certainly contagious as O’Leary’s teammates gave her some early run support.
Erin Andris blooped an RBI single in the first inning to score Noel Dominguez for a 1-0 lead.
Then Valencia pushed across four unearned runs in the second inning thanks to a pair of Pacifica errors. Kelia Paragas, Dominguez and Shipman each were credited with RBI for a 5-0 lead.
“Every time I get early runs, I know my team has my back and I just have to do my job,” O’Leary said.
Shipman padded the lead in the sixth inning with an RBI double to score Alley Johnson, who scored two runs. Kyla Hardy also hit the ball hard with some quality at-bats to spark Valencia’s big innings.
“I think it relaxes the whole team when we get runs on the board because we know Shea will shut them down,” said Shipman, who was 3 for 3 with a double and two RBI. “We’re starting to get in the zone and we’re coming together as a team. It’s a good time to get into gear.”