By Nathan Cambridge, Correspondent
PASADENA – La Salle was left thinking what might have been following Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Nordhoff in a CIF-SS Division 3 wild-card softball playoff game.
In the bottom of the first inning, the first three batters for the Lancers hit singles to load the bases with no outs. But with clean-up hitter Stephanie Ferri at the plate and La Salle (15-10) poised for a big inning, Nordhoff (18-7) pulled off a triple play on a pick-off throw.
“We have a drill that is set up like that,” Nordhoff coach Don Rodarte said of the triple play. “Once you get one out you’re thinking, while you’re running that one down, you got another runner on and you’ve got to keep moving. You’re mind has to keep thinking and once you make that play, boom, you’ve got to run to the next play. It was just picture perfect like we do in practice.”
After the second pitch of the Ferri at-bat, Nordhoff catcher Dani Pulido threw behind senior Colieen McWilliams, catching her off first base. With McWilliams in a rundown, sophomore Kennedy Cribbs tried to score from third base but was thrown out at home, with Pulido applying the tag before throwing back toward second base, where McWilliams still was off base.
Senior Victoria Baltazar, who began the play at second, then tried to come home but Pulido once again took the throw and tagged her for the second out. As that happened, McWilliams tried to advance to third base but, after Pulido threw toward second, the ensuing throw beat McWilliams to the bag and she was tagged out, completing a highly unusual triple play.
“All I can tell you is that my seniors were just trying to make plays,” La Salle coach Rich Diaz said. “They tried to get into a pickle from what I saw. You know, it was something they did on their own. It’s unfortunate.”
Ferri was at bat in the fourth inning with Baltazar and McWilliams on base ahead of her via singles, and the junior smashed Rangers starting pitcher Alex Throp’s first pitch for a home run to right-center field, staking the Lancers to a 3-0 advantage.
In the fifth inning the first four Rangers batters hit singles. The first was a bunt that would have gone foul if Lancers third baseman Madison Worely had not touched it, but instead the senior grabbed it and threw late to first. The next Nordhoff batter followed with a single to shallow center field that McWilliams looked poised to scoop up to throw out the lead runner at second base, but she bobbled the ball to negate the chance.
The next two singles were clean and the second produced an RBI for Pulido. After getting an out, infield errors by Lancers’ shortstop Caroline Knop and Cribbs at second base allowed one and two runs to score respectively. After that he Lancers trailed 4-3 and never recovered.
Norhoff ace Kaitlynn Nelson pitched the final three innings in relief and held the Lancers hitless while striking out five.
The mental mistakes on the basepaths in the first inning and on defense in the fourth doomed the Lancers, who otherwise played a solid game led by the pitcher Victoria Baltazar in the circle.
“This whole year (Baltazar) has stepped up for us and had a great year. She carried us through league and into the CIF. We’re proud of her. She had a great senior year,” Diaz said.