All it took was one hit.
Chino’s game was so refined by the time the softball team reached Saturday’s CIF-SS Division 2 championship game that one hit was enough to convince Cowgirls coach Mike Smith a second consecutive title was in the bag.
Ruby Barroso’s second-inning solo home run turned out to be enough as Miranda Viramontes pitched her third one-hitter of the playoffs to lead Chino to a 4-0 win over Lakewood and a second consecutive CIF championship.
Viramontes, who last season was the centerpiece of the first CIF championship softball team in school history, allowed just two runs the entire postseason. With eight strikeouts and two walks, the junior won her 21st consecutive start by defeating fourth-seeded Lakewood on Saturday in a game she entered with a 0.36 earned-run average.
“You give Miranda a lead and it’s pretty much over,” Smith said. “You look at the numbers, I think it’s been years since anybody’s done what she did. I don’t think there’s anybody in the state that pitched better this year.”
The only losses this season for No. 3 seed Chino (29-2) were one-run defeats at the hands of Division 1 No. 2 seed Santa Ana Mater Dei and Division 2 No. 1 seed Mission Viejo. Viramontes didn’t even pitch in the 7-6 loss to Mission Viejo.
“It will probably take a few days for me to realize the kind of season we had,” Viramontes said. “Maybe once we get our second ring, I don’t know. This was incredible. It’s going to take a little bit for this to sink in.”
Especially after losing three players from last season who are now on college rosters, Chino wasn’t an offensive juggernaut in 2013. The Cowgirls employed four freshman, two of whom scored in a two-run sixth inning to pad Chino’s lead.
Seven Chino players had at least one hit. Barroso and freshman Alyssa Gonzalez each went 2 for 3 with an RBI.
The only offense the Cowgirls would need was achieved when Barroso stroked the first pitch she saw over the fence in right-center field to give Chino a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The senior was dropped from her regular clean-up spot to sixth in the order in hopes she would see some better pitches in the championship game.
Chino collected nine hits off Lakewood starter Janelle Hayes, who allowed a just three runs in four playoff games combined prior to the title game.
But Lakewood’s postseason was no easy road. The Lancers’ first- and second-round wins were one-run games. Lakewood earned a 2-0 quarterfinal win over defending CIF-SS Division 3 champion Chino Hills, winner of a Sierra League that produced three of the eight quarterfinalists.
Chino’s playoff run has began with a seven-run victory, but the Cowgirls’ needed a no-hitter from Viramontes in a 2-0 second-round win over Trabuco Hills. Following a 10-0 quarterfinal win, Chino needed nine innings to advance to the final courtesy of a 2-1 win over Oaks Christian, the Cowgirls’ fifth playoff victory in the last two seasons by two runs or less.
Saturday’s margin reached two runs in the third inning, though Lakewood appeared to dodge a bullet when left fielder Lindsay Cerulle’s throw home arrived well before Chino’s Ayrika Simmons. But catcher Alexis Carillo dropped the ball while making the tag, giving Corina Gamboa an RBI single and the Cowgirls a 2-0 lead in the third.
The closest Viramontes came to getting in trouble was issuing a two-out, fifth-inning walk with a runner on that reached courtesy of an error and stole second base. The junior ended the threat with her sixth strikeout of the game.
“I thought we needed more runs or it could have been a different game,” Gonzalez said. “Some insurance runs helped.”
Chino mustered three consecutive two-out hits in the sixth inning, adding a pair of insurance runs in the process. Third baseman Salina Galindo, who was 1 for 2, raced home on Gonzalez’s double that rolled to the fence in the right-center field gap. Gonzalez then swelled the lead to 4-0 when she scored on an opposite-field single by freshman Vanessa Gutierrez.
“We knew we would be good this year, but we lost some players and we didn’t know how these freshmen would react,” Smith said. “They all played poised and they knew how to focus because they’d been in these situations with their club teams.
“And anytime Miranda is in the circle, we’re going to be tough.”