Guajome Park (14-6 overall) got on the board 2-0 in the first Tiger mental errors — Imperial's freshman third baseman Melanie Medina acknowledges as much.
"We were really tense being out there," she said of opening minutes of the game. "We should have been relaxed."
Relax they did. Taking Guajome Park's early lead in stride, the Tigers hunkered down behind the solid play of Imperial's infield and the reliable pitching of sophomore Lindsay Lugo, who struck out Phrog Noel Duquette to get out of the inning.
Batting leadoff for the Tigers, Medina started off what would prove a spectacular outing by arching a base hit in shallow left centerfield. She finished the game 3-for-4 with four RBI.
Shortstop Stephanie Ortega then popped a ball into right field that was dropped, advancing Medina to third. Ortega cruised to second.
Vista pitcher Jaci Maddox next loaded the bases when she walked Imperial catcher Amy Holtz.
Up came Lugo, whose sacrifice fly scored Medina, cutting the score to 2-1.
With runners on first and second, Maddox threw a wild pitch to Imperial's Victoria Mazon that advanced Ortega and Holtz. Mazon then lasered a shot to Maddox, who was able to get Ortega out at home.
With Mazon on first and Holtz on third, Rhea Deal came to the plate. A wild pitch during Deal's at-bat scored Holtz from third, knotting the game at two.
Seconds later Deal smashed a single up the middle that scored Mazon and had Imperial up by one run, a lead it would not relinquish.
Witte said of her team's gutsy first-inning performance, "That's a testament of their maturity level, that they can handle it when they make a mistake."
Medina said: "Everyone just shook it off and got back into it."
Said Lugo, who has started every game for Imperial this season and had two strikeouts and went 1 for 2 at the plate: "I felt it was a good win. But there were a lot of mental errors we know not to make. But we pulled it out."
In the second inning, the Tigers went on a three-run scoring binge, bringing their lead to 6-2.
After Imperial senior Anica Roche was walked by Maddox, Roche stole second with designated hitter Andrea Thompson at the plate. Thompson, who played her first game since suffering a severe broken leg during pre-season practice, then dropped a base hit into shallow left field. On that hit, Thompson advanced Roche to third and reached second herself on a Phrog error.
Medina then rocked the ball to deep centerfield. Roche and Thompson reached home while multiple miscues by Guajome Park fielders allowed what amounted to an inside-the-park home run by Medina.
The Phrogs scored for the last time in the third when Maddox, who reached first on a single and second on a sacrifice bunt, was driven home by a Brenna Bartholomew base hit.
Imperial also scored in the third when Medina ripped a double to score Culp, who reached second on a double.
The Tigers' offensive firepower continued in the fourth and fifth innings.
With bases loaded in the fourth, Culp singled to right field, scoring Holtz and Lugo and bringing the game to 9-3. Mazon, standing on third, added another run when a Phrog infielder tagged out Culp, who was attempting to steal second, allowing a clear path to the plate for Mazon.
Imperial closed the door in the fifth when Thompson scored on an Ortega RBI single, then Ortega and Medina scored on a Phrog fielding error after a Holtz hit. With the score at 13-3, the umpire called the game.
The Tigers had 10 hits, nine earned runs and committed four errors. Players of note included Culp, who went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Thompson, whose 2-for-3 performance brought a smile to Witte's face.
"I'm really happy for her. She's one of my hardest workers," Witte said. "For her to come back (after the injury) shows how much it all means to her."
The Tigers will next travel to face No. 4 seed La Jolla Country Day in the second round at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. La Jolla, which had a first-round bye, beat Imperial 3-1 at a tournament earlier this year.
When asked about a plan of attack, Witte said she just wants the girls to come out and be aggressive early.