Kailey Palazzolo’s fifth-inning blast was just close enough to a game-sealing two-run home run to provide La Mirada a circus catch and its only source of momentum all game. Turns out Palazzolo just had to wait two more innings to hit the actual game-winner as the Don Lugo shortstop’s walk-off single gave the Conquistadores a 2-1 victory that advanced the second-place team from the Mt. Baldy League to Tuesday’s CIF-SS Division 2 semifinal against Moreno Valley Valley View.
As Mt. Baldy League champion Chino continues to march through the top half of the bracket, Don Lugo (20-5) reached its first semifinal in seven years.
“It was only fitting that Palazzolo got the game-winning hit after she was robbed like that,” Don Lugo coach Ray Sheffield said. “There’s only eight teams left and they’re all good but these girls just don’t want to be the ones to lose.”
Don Lugo’s Belinda Renne won the pitchers’ duel with La Mirada freshman Valerie Alvarado as the Matadores’ only run was unearned. It was two errors by La Mirada (22-9), however, that set the stage for Palazzolo’s game-winning single with two outs in the seventh inning.
A fielding error by the shortstop and throwing error by the third baseman preceded the second out of the inning prior to Palazzolo’s clutch hit to left-center field that scored the run from second with ease.
“I was just thinking ‘I want to come through for the team,'” Palazzolo said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I just trusted my swing and let my hands do the work.”
The seventh-inning single turned out to be Palazzolo’s only hit of the game, but the ball she hit the hardest was snared by Courtney Skogen as the La Mirada center fielder reached above the fence to save a two-run home run that would have made the score 3-0 in the fifth inning. Instead La Mirada swung the momentum with its first run of the game in the sixth inning.
Matadores designated player Annie Dipillo scored from second on a fly-out to short right field when Alex Portsi’s high throw to third sailed into the Conquistadores’ dugout. Dipillo’s one-out single was the sixth hit of the game for La Mirada but just the third allowed out of the infield by Renne, who frustrated a Suburban League champion lineup that had outscored opponents 15-0 in the playoffs.
Don Lugo didn’t have much offense to speak of either, collecting just four hits prior to Palazzolo’s game-winner. A second-inning double by center fielder Katie Alamprese was followed by a timely triple from Marina Duran that landed just over the head of a flat-footed right fielder to give Don Lugo a 1-0 lead. But in a sign of things to come, Alvarado held Don Lugo to one run in the inning despite Duran’s presence on third with no outs.
Eventually the Conquistadores found a way to move on and they don’t think there’s a limit to how much farther they can go.
“All the way,” Palazzolo said. “No doubt.”