YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

Eagles advance to semis

May 22, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

SANTEE — This softball season has been about reaching and fulfilling goals for Southwest High coach Stephanie Niebla.

At the start of the year her first goal was to win an Imperial Valley League championship, which her team did. Then she set a goal to win in the first round of the CIF San Diego Section Division III playoffs, which was accomplished Monday. Next on the list was to advance to the semifinals.

On Tuesday, Niebla fulfilled that goal as her team knocked off the Division III No. 4 seed Santana High 4-0 to advance to the semis.

"After each game I've been making new goals and we reached one of them today. Now the next goal is to make it to finals," said Niebla, whose team finished 17-8 overall and 10-2 in the IVL earning the No. 5 seed.


"But all the credit has to go to the girls. They know what kind of ball these other teams are playing and know what needs to be done."

What was needed for the Eagles to advance was a near-perfect defensive performance and timely hitting against Santana pitcher Dominique De Luca.

Southwest committed only two errors and Eagle ace Melissa Lerno made certain the defense behind her had it easy as she limited the Sultans to three hits.

After overpowering Madison High 4-1 on Monday and finishing with 12 strikeouts, Lerno only K'd one but did enough to get the win.

"I was kind of nervous before the game, but knowing that my defense was playing really good, that just gave me more confidence," said Lerno, a freshman. "I think the reason I didn't have as many strikeouts is because Santana's a better hitting team than Madison. But when they did make contact the defense was there to make the plays."

Just as the Southwest D was there to make the plays when needed, the Eagle bats showed up as they recorded eight hits.

Leading the Southwest offense were Jessica Conway with two base hits, Janai Williams with a double and an RBI, Lerno with a single, a stolen base and a run in the fourth inning and Shannon Whitman with a base hit and a run in the seventh.

Also scoring for Southwest were Melissa Frausto in the third inning on a Santana error after reaching base on an error. Arynne Valdez scored the team's final run in the seventh on a single by Nikki Cordova.

"I think we did enough to get by," said Conway. "We didn't need to have a big offensive game because today was mainly about our defense."

Southwest faces top-seeded University City (19-7-1) in the semifinal at the Poway Sports Park at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

"You know, when the competition we face gets tougher, this team just seems to step up another level," said Niebla. "We know that right now in the playoffs the pitching is going to be a lot tougher than what we've faced before.

"Coming into playoffs we were killing teams, but it's different now. Now our pitching and defense has to step up," said Niebla. "Even though we have a lot of young players, they're all very mature and are stepping up to the challenge. Like I said, my next goal is to make it to the finals."

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles