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Wildcat softball team ousted from CIF Divison III playoffs

May 19, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, sports Writer

ENCINITAS — The Brawley Union High School softball team was eliminated from the CIF San Diego Section Division III playoffs here Saturday losing 5-1 to No. 6 seed San Dieguito Academy.

But for the Brawley softball program it wasn't just another loss, it also was the end of an era.

As the last out of the game was recorded, it was not only the end of the No. 11 seed Wildcats' season, it also was the end of Leighan Sudduth's high school playing career.

After starring for Brawley the last four years at shortstop and, more prominently, at pitcher, Sudduth endured her first losing season as the Wildcats finished 12-15 overall and 4-8 in the Imperial Valley League, placing second to last.

On the strength of her arm and bat, Sudduth willed the Wildcats into the playoffs and gave the team one last opportunity to redeem its sub-par season.

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Just as she's done all year and since the start of her high school career, Sudduth gave everything she had in the Wildcats' defeat. However, a handful of errors cost Brawley a chance to advance in the playoffs.

"We definitely had our share of errors today, just like we've had all season," said Sudduth. "That just makes it that much more difficult because we could've had it. They hit and we made errors. That's all it came down to."

All season the Wildcats were haunted by mental breakdowns and defensive miscues, including a five-game losing streak that was snapped Wednesday against Calexico High in a 9-0 victory.

It was that 1-5 second-half performance in league play that led to questions about whether the Wildcats would make the playoffs at all. But on the strength of Wednesday's win and a 5-2 record against San Diego schools in tournament play at the start of the year, the Wildcats made it into the postseason.

"I didn't think we'd make it. With our record, I really thought that we wouldn't be able to get here (in the playoffs)," said Sudduth. "But thanks to that Calexico game we were able to make it. I think that game gave us a lot of confidence for this game because we were hitting in that game and it kind of carried over today.

"We hit really well today. I think we hit better in this game than we have the last few weeks," said Sudduth. "We were hitting, but again, that one inning where we had those errors, that was pretty much the game right there."

That one inning that Sudduth referred to was a three-run fourth inning in which the Mustangs (18-9 overall) capitalized on three Brawley errors.

Prior to that, in the top of the fourth, Sudduth tied the game at 1-1 with an inside-the-park home run that gave the Wildcats new life.

It was short-lived, however, as San Dieguito went on to score three in the bottom of the frame and tacked on another run in the sixth.

Along with a home run, Sudduth also finished with a single to lead the Brawley offense, which recorded four hits. Picking up the team's other two hits were Reggie Horta in the first inning and Karla Price in the seventh.

On the mound, Sudduth allowed five hits, gave up only two earned runs and struck out four.

Leading San Dieguito were Karina Wecker and Yvonne Townsend, each with solo home runs. Townsend picked up the win allowing four hits.

"I really don't think we hit as much as we would've liked to and you don't hit, you can't score," said Brawley coach Chris Velasco. "But I thought our defense played a lot better than it has been. Except for that one inning, they did a really good job defensively."

Playing well defensively was catcher Erin Rutherford, who had no passed balls and threw two runners out on base.

"I thought we came together more as a team today. That may have been because we wanted to prove that we belonged in the playoffs with the big dogs and show that during the year we just didn't play to our potential," said Rutherford, a junior and a three-year starter. "Whatever it was, we played as a team today."

Next year Rutherford will likely be a focal point of Brawley's quest to regain prominence.

Even though it is a lot to ask of anyone, Rutherford said she is looking forward to stepping up to that challenge.

"Really, I was ready for that responsibility this year. And if I'm going to be someone they look at to help lead the team, then I'm looking forward to it."

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