By Steve Ramirez
COVINA – Northview and Aquinas high schools began Tuesday dreaming of winning their program’s first CIF-Southern Section title.
For the visiting Falcons, that quest is still alive.
Jessica Valenzuela hit a three-run home run in the third inning and Allie Hotetz was solid in the circle and Aquinas advanced to its first CIF-SS championship game with a 9-1 victgory over the Vikings in a Division 5 semifinal.
Hotetz tossed a four-hitter and struck out three and Maritsa Cardona had four hits and two RBIs for the Falcons, who improved to 25-2 and will face either Silverado or Montebello in the title game, either Friday or Saturday at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine. The CIF-SS will release the championship game schedule today.
Northview, which was in the semifinals for the first time, finished 21-8.
“A lot of girls who have gone on to college have built this program when we got to the quarters and the semifinals and we couldn’t get over the hump and get to the finals,” Aquinas coach Chris Ybarra said. “These girls are proving to everyone that it doesn’t always mean how big your school is, as long as you can come together.
“I said it last week, they play for each other. They don’t play for individual stats. They want to play for their team, because they want to win it as group. And they are playing for their seniors. It’s exciting, and I’m very proud of my girls and I hope it can continue (in the championship game).”
The Falcons, who beat No. 2 seed Downey Calvary Chapel last week in the quarterfinals, wasted little time in putting it away, rallying from an early 1-0 deficit in the first to tie it at 1 on a sacrifice fly by Heaven Murguia in the second before taking a 4-1 lead on Valenzuela’s three-run homerun in the third.
Yoselin Navarro and Cardona, who went 4 for 4, had RBI singles in the fourth to push it to 6-1. The Falcons made it 9-1 in the seventh on a RBI single by Kylie Dazalla and a Northview fielding error.
Northview, which had outscored its first three opponents in the playoffs, 26-8, was shutdown by Hotetz, who yielded just one fly ball to the Vikings’ usual powerful offense. She retired 12 of 13 batters following Errin Jaramillo’s RBI single in the first. Northview’s only base runner in the stretch was on a fielding error.
“We didn’t adjust to her at all,” Northview coach Jeff Butler said. “Judging by the stats, she’s not a great power pitcher. But she had great movement and kept handcuffing us the whole game.
“We’re a pretty good hitting team and we just couldn’t make an adjustment.”
Hotetz finished off Northview by turning away a two-out rally in the sixth before retiring the Vikings in order in the seventh, clinching it by striking out Jennie Hidalgo.
“It’s tough to end it this way,” Butler said. “We were on a Cinderella ride and we thought we were going to ride it all the way to the championship game. It just didn’t work out. But like I told them, they are still the best team Northview’s ever had and should hold their heads up high.”
By Steve Ramirez