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Southwest girls headed to CIF final

May 24, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

POWAY — After qualifying for the CIF San Diego Section Division III semifinals Tuesday, Southwest High softball coach Stephanie Niebla summed up her team's chances of advancing to the finals in one simple phrase.

"To be the best, you have to beat the best," she said.

On Thursday here, Niebla's team beat the best as the Eagles knocked off two-time defending champion and No. 1 seed University City 1-0 to advance to the finals.

"We've completed so many of the goals we've set for ourselves this season and one of them was to make it to the finals," said Niebla, whose team finished 17-8 overall and 10-2 in the Imperial Valley League, winning the IVL championship. "At the beginning of the game when we were taking infield/outfield (practice), looking at our team, it didn't look too good. I think that was just pre-game jitters and nerves."

Knowing her team's season was on the line, Niebla gave a bit of a talk to calm their nerves. From that point, everything fell into place.


The top-seeded Centurions (19-7-1) couldn't capitalize on scoring opportunities.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, after struggling against University City starting pitcher Kim Kay the entire game, Southwest's offense showed signs of life.

Nikki Cordova led off the sixth by reaching base on a hit-by-pitch and was replaced by pinch-runner Shannon Whitman. Jessica Conway followed with a double that advanced Whitman to third. On the play, Whitman suffered an injured ankle and was replaced by Christina Miranda.

With no outs and runners on second and third, sophomore P.J. Enders walked to the plate with the weight of the game on her shoulders.

"Going up to the plate I knew I had to hit because I just felt that everyone was counting on me to come through," said Enders.

And come through she did. Enders ripped a single over the shortstop's head, scoring Miranda for the go-ahead run.

Stephanie Garcia next loaded the bases with no outs. She reached first on a bunt. But the Eagles were unable to add to their lead when Kay struck out the next three batters.

In the top of the seventh, Southwest retired the Centurions in order, earning the victory.

Said Enders, who finished 2-for-3: "When I was at bat, I was very nervous … all that adrenaline was going through me. I never would've thought that game would've been on my shoulders. But with this team, anyone could've done the same thing."

Enders' game-winner was that much sweeter knowing the Eagle defense was able to hold University City's offense in check.

The Centurions had their chances as 10 batters reached base on hits, walks and errors. What they couldn't do was come through with a clutch hit as eight runners were left on base.

Playing a major role in defeating University City was Eagle freshman pitcher Melissa Lerno, who only gave up five hits, struck out three and twice got out of jams with two runners on base.

"They had plenty of chances to score, but our defense did a really good job today," said Lerno. "For the most part I wasn't really nervous because I knew we had to play our game. The only time I really got nervous was (in the fifth inning) when they had runners on second and third with only one out. But luckily we were able to get out of it."

The Eagles squandered opportunities of their own. Southwest had the chance to put away the game earlier as five runners were stranded on base before the sixth inning.

Southwest's best chance came in the fifth as Janai Williams and Andy Miramontes reached base with back-to-back singles with only one out. A Melissa Frausto ground-out advanced the two to second and third with two outs, but Lerno was unable to score either Williams or Miramontes as she, too, grounded out to end the threat.

Southwest finished with six hits off Kay, who recorded nine strikeouts.

Cordova recorded the team's first hit in the first inning with a two-out double.

At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Southwest will take on No. 3 Serra High (10-9-3) for the Division III championship at University of California, San Diego in La Jolla.

"Getting to the finals is definitely awesome. Win or lose, just making it is awesome," said Niebla. "But if we play the way we know we're capable of, I think we have a pretty good chance."

Added Lerno: "Being only a freshman, this is really big for me, making it to the finals. But we've gotten this far so we can't give up now."

For those interested in attending the game, take Interstate 8 to San Diego, then take the I-805 north exit. From I-805 north take the Miramar Road exit and bear right on Miramar. Continue on La Jolla Village Drive and turn right on Genesee Avenue. From Genesee, turn left onto Torrey Pines Road and then left on Northpoint Drive and through the UCSD campus entrance. Turn right on Scholars Drive to the parking lots.

Admission to the game is $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors and $4 for children 5-12 years old. Children under 5 are free.

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