Esperanza High’s softball team upset yet another No. 1-ranked opponent on Thursday, June 10.
Now, the Aztecs will get a chance to cement their standing as the best team in the CIF Southern Section.
Senior pitcher Emily Gomez recovered from a rocky first inning to fire a five-hitter and senior center fielder Hannah Coor homered for the second consecutive game as Esperanza stunned top-seeded and host Norco 7-2 in the Division 1 semifinals.
No. 4 seeded Esperanza (21-3) will face Roosevelt, a 7-6 winner against Chino Hills, in the championship game next week at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. The schedule is expected to be released soon by the CIF Southern Section.
Norco (27-2) entered Thursday riding a 26-game winning streak and having outscored its three playoff opponents 36-1, including an eye-popping 15-1 margin against Los Alamitos.
But the Cougars became the third No. 1-ranked team to fall to the Aztecs this spring.
Esperanza also has defeated previously No. 1-ranked Chino Hills 3-2 and Villa Park, formerly the top-ranked squad in Division 2, 1-0 in the Crestview League.
“The girls on the team knew they could compete,” Esperanza coach Ed Tunstall said after Thursday’s triumph. “They were not intimidated, and they all stepped up.”
Norco scored twice against Gomez in the first inning but didn’t plate another run against the steady senior, who struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.
Esperanza scored seven consecutive runs after falling behind 2-0. Beside the two-run homer by the Oklahoma-bound Coor, the Aztecs received three hits from sophomore shortstop Sharyn Duncan and two from freshman right fielder Taylor Shumaker.
Tunstall noted that eight different players either scored or drove in a run for the Aztecs. Sophomore second baseman Audrey Robles had two RBIs while courtesy runner Makenna Milliman scored a run. “Big team win,” Tunstall said.
Sophomore Mya Perez had two of Norco’s five hits.
Esperanza advanced to its second section final. In 2001, the Aztecs fell in the Division 1 championship to Rancho Cucamonga 1-0 in 12 innings.
Roosevelt finished second to Norco in the powerful Big VIII League.
The magical finishes to games are spreading at Esperanza High.
Oklahoma-bound center fielder Hannah Coor belted a walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the 11th inning Tuesday, June 8 to lift the Aztecs’ softball team past visiting Murrieta Mesa 5-2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals.
Coor’s dramatic homer arrived on the heels of two last-second victories by Esperanza’s girls basketball team during its playoff run, which hits the Division 1 final at Long Beach Poly on Thursday.
Coor’s blast sent the No. 4 seeded Aztecs into the semifinals Thursday at No. 1 Norco, which defeated Los Alamitos 15-1.
Esperanza senior pitcher Emily Gomez went 11 innings to earn the victory, scattering five hits and striking out eight.
Freshman Taylor Shumaker and sophomore second baseman Audrey Robles each added three hits for Esperanza.
In other quarterfinals Tuesday:
In Division 5:
Ocean View 3, Capo Valley 1: Desyree Arizmendi fired a complete game with six strikeouts and Emma Craft had three hits to help the Seahawks upset No. 2 seeded and host Cougars.
Ocean View, the third-place team from the solid Golden West League, will play host San Marcos in the semifinals on Thursday.
Western Christian plays host to Heritage Christian in the other semifinal.
In Division 4:
Rosary 5, Citrus Valley 1: Hannah Hernandez and Danica Silvestri each had three hits and Natalie Romero threw seven strong innings as No. 2 seeded and host Royals reached the semifinals. Rosary will play host Thursday to Oxnard, an 8-0 winner against Arlington.
In Division 3:
Beckman 5, Arcadia 0: The visiting Patriots moved onto Thursday’s semifinals against Redondo. The semifinal will be played at Beckman.
In Division 2:
Villa Park 3, Downey 0: Arizona-committed junior Sydney Somerndike fired a one-hitter and struck out 16 and Jordyn Lawhon added two hits as the No. 2 seeded Spartans reached Thursday’s semifinals. Villa Park will play host to Westlake for a trip to the finals.
LOS ALAMITOS — Facing the hottest pitcher on the No. 1-ranked softball team in Orange County didn’t appear to be most favorable match-up for Los Alamitos High’s scuffling offense on Saturday, May 1.
But the Griffins had plans for Arizona commit Sydney Somerndike and Villa Park, plenty of resolve and even a few base running surprises from Coach Rob Weil.
Oklahoma-bound Sophia Nugent belted a two-run home run and Malayna Terrones and Emma Haygood added back-to-back home runs as the No. 3 Griffins emerged from their hitting slump to defeat previously undefeated Villa Park 8-1 in a Savanna Showcase game at Los Alamitos.
Los Alamitos center fielder Erin Mendoza robs Villa Park’s Claire Duckworth of a home run in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park third baseman Mikayla Maher puts the tag on Los Alamitos’s Camryn Johnson only to have her be called safe in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Los Alamitos catcher Sophia Nugent, center, is congratulated after hitting a two-run home run against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park’s Claire Duckworth is congratulated after hitting a solo home run against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park starting pitcher Emma Haygood walks off the mound after being relieved in the sixth inning against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Los Alamitos shortstop Emma Sellers hauls in a short pop fly against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Los Alamitos catcher Sophia Nugent gets a low-five from head coach Rob Weil after hitting a two-run home run against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Los Alamitos pitcher Maline Anjali pitched a complete game against Villa Park, giving up only one run in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Los Alamitos’ Jazzy Santos slides into second base safe as Villa Park second baseman Andreya Flores can’t handle the throw in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park pitcher Sydney Somerndike cranks up to throw a pitch in th efirst inning against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park’s Courtney Alvarado is confused after being called out for running into Los Alamitos second baseman in the middle of a play in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Los Alamitos cathcer Sophia Nugent connects for a two-run home run against Villa Park in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park’s Andreya Flores celebrates hitting a double against Los Alamitos in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park outfielder Tessa Galvin, number 14, nearly collides with another player as she drops a bloop single by Los Alamitos’ Diamond Sefe in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Villa Park outfielders Riley Sandvig, left, and Claire Duckworth, right, react after a home run hit by Los Alamitos Emma Haygood in a non-league softball game at Los Alamitos High Los Alamitos on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)
Los Alamitos (11-4) lost 3-1 and 1-0 earlier this week to Edison and Crescenta Valley, respectively. The previous week, the Griffins fell to Pacifica and Huntington Beach, 3-2, and, 5-4, respectively.
“We’ve been playing some good quality teams and good pitchers and we just kind of hit the wall,” Weil said of the stretch. “Hitting is contagious, up and a down the lineup. One (hit) falls, and it seems like they all fall. Today, we had a game plan with this kid, who is very talented … and were able to connect on a few balls.”
Weil said the Griffins’ approach was to stay off Somerndike’s rise ball and force the junior to bring her pitchers lower in the zone.
“She’s a rise-ball pitcher,” Weil said. “We were very disciplined.”
In the fourth, Nugent belted a 1-1 pitch to right to give Los Alamitos a 3-0 lead. The senior drove in No. 9 batter Jules Ronquillo, who reached one batter earlier on a two-out bunt single.
Los Alamitos finished with 11 hits off Somerndike (13-1), including back-to-back shots by Terrones and Haygood in a four-run seventh. It was the first home runs of the season for the left-handed hitters.
Villa Park coach Terry Williams said Somerndike was bothered by a jammed finger on her pitching hand.
“I debated not pitching her at all,” he said. “Her rise ball wasn’t working for her. … but she battled through it and tried to give us a chance.”
Los Alamitos sophomore pitcher Anjali Maline (2-0) went the distance for the Griffins, allowing only a solo home run to sophomore Claire Duckworth with two outs in the fourth. Duckworth nearly homered in the second but center fielder Erin Mendoza robbed her of the homer with a running catch at the fence.
Weil also injected plenty of base running into the Griffins’ attack. With two out in the third, Diamond Sefe stole third on a fake bunt and scored the first run when the throw from the catcher sailed down the line.
After Haygood led off the sixth with a double, Mendoza followed with a bunt single and purposely rounded first aggressively to create a rundown, which led to pinch-runner Camryn Johnson scoring from second.
“We did get a little frustrated at first (about our offensive woes) but then we started to realize we’re in this together,” Nugent said. “We had a 6 a.m. practice recently and we worked on some things and fixed things.”
ANAHEIM — Esperanza High’s softball team didn’t waste any time Tuesday, April 6 showing it was ready to rebound for a tough loss last week.
The Aztecs also unexpectedly showed another dimension to their arsenal, which has already knocked off the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
Esperanza scored three runs in the first inning and received a combined four-hitter in the circle from Emily Gomez and Brooke Perez en route to a 3-0 victory against visiting and well-regarded La Mirada.
Esperanza (4-1) plated three runs before La Mirada (4-3) recorded an out. Playing its first game since losing to Pacifica last week, the Aztecs opened the bottom of half of the first with doubles from freshman right fielder Taylor Shumaker, sophomore shortstop Sharyn Duncan and senior center fielder Hannah Coor and a run-scoring single from senior catcher Raquelle Ngue, the cleanup hitter.
Ngue added a double in the second and finished 2 for 3.
The Oklahoma-bound Coor said a 3-0 loss last week to Pacifica sparked the Aztecs’ bats in the first inning.
“We were pretty flat the whole game (against Pacifica) so we just wanted to make sure we came out swinging this game and get a good win,” she said.
Gomez and Perez took care of the rest in the circle, though Gomez left unexpectedly in the fifth. With two outs in the inning, Gomez fielded a grounder back to the circle awkwardly. The senior, who pitched the Aztecs past former nationally No. 1-ranked Chino Hills, smiled afterward but walked gingerly off the field.
“She stepped in a hole out there — the hole pitchers make from their plant foot — and just rolled it (her ankle),” Esperanza coach Tunstall said. “I think it’s a good sign that she was able to walk on it. The real bad ones you can’t even put weight on it. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Gomez allowed only three hits — though Alyssa Campbell led off the second with a double that nearly cleared the fence. Gomez struck out six and walked one.
Perez, a junior, took over in the circle and showed that the Aztecs have some quality pitching depth. She only allowed an infield single off her glove and struck out three in 2 1/2 innings. Shumaker provided defensive support with a running catch in the sixth.
If Gomez can’t pitch Thursday against Santiago Corona, Tunstall said Perez will take the ball with freshman left fielder Mia Sanchez moving to the No. 2 pitcher spot.
“This is probably one of the best teams I’ve been on at Esperanza,” said Coor, a four-year varsity player. “I think we all mesh together very well. We all get along. There’s no drama. There’s good communication. We pick each other up.”
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Premier Girls Fastpitch on Sunday canceled its 18- and 16-and-under national travel softball championships and its All-American high school game — all scheduled for Orange County this summer — because of the coronavirus.
PGF president/CEO Dan Hay hoped the last several weeks that the tournaments scheduled for July 24-Aug. 1 and the national all-star game planned for Aug. 1 could be played but the recent surge of coronavirus cases and the suspension of youth sports in the state sealed the fate of the high-profile events.
Hay made the announcement with a heavy heart. The PGF nationals have grown into a festival for the softball community and attracted national television exposure for players and teams.
Pacifica’s Alyssa Brito (Oregon) and Los Alamitos’ Kennedi Houshmandzadeh (LSU) were selected to the All-American game.
“These kids aren’t going to have these life-long memories,” Hay said. “We looked into relocating it to another part of the country and every other part of the country is having problems. It’s too uncertain. … There was no way to do it.”
PGF hasn’t yet canceled the second week of its championships — for the 14, 12 and 10 age divisions — but Hay isn’t optimistic those events scheduled for Aug. 2-9 will be played. An announcement is expected on July 19.
“I don’t think there’s a chance,” Hay said of the likelihood of the tournaments being played.
Last season between its two sessions, the PGF Nationals hosted about 635 teams from across the nation.
The tournaments were viewed as the crown jewel of the highly-competitive travel softball season.
“The cancellation is a such a huge blow for our softball season,” said Coach Alan Caouette of California Cruisers and Aliso Niguel High. “All year we look forward to playing in this prestigious event. … In a year of chaos, it would been outstanding to finish with this event.”
Hay said the PGF trimmed the number of teams this year to about 550 in hopes of managing the schedule amid the pandemic and limiting crowds.
But the number of coronavirus cases in Orange County have risen and youth sports statewide have been postponed by the California Department of Public Heath.
Hay, however, believes the softball games should be allowed to go on.
“I believe that these kids should be able to go out and play games and allow the organizations to social distance responsibly,” said Hay, also the co-head softball at Marina. “Baseball and softball, it’s pretty easy to social distance.”
Hay said his organization has been seriously impacted financially by the cancellations but will be “fine” and “ready for 2021.” PGF applied for and received funds through the Payroll Protect Plan, he said.
The cities of Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley and Irvine also will be impacted financially by the cancellation of the tournaments.
“We bring over 50,000 people into Southern California during those two weeks,” Hay said. “The money that they’re spending in restaurants and hotels and stores and gas stations is going to be sorely missed by these communities.”