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Eagle Lerno at home on the mound

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK:

May 28, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer
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At the start of the 2002 high school softball season, Southwest High's Melissa Lerno knew she was going to get the bulk of the work on the mound for the Eagles.

What the freshman didn't know was she would lead her team to the promised land, winning an Imperial Valley League championship as well as helping the squad reach the CIF San Diego Section Division III finals for the first time in school history.

Last week, Lerno and the Eagles wrapped their championship season going 3-1 in the playoffs and falling three runs short of the Division III title, losing 2-0 to Serra High in the final Saturday.

In the championship game, Lerno gave up only four hits, struck out two and allowed no earned runs.

"Really, I didn't think we'd get that far. I thought, if anything, we'd get to the semifinals because other teams had more experience than us," said the 14-year-old Lerno. "Not many people thought we'd make it as far as we did. So I think we went into the playoffs trying to prove that we did belong."

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After a stellar regular season — strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings with a 0.90 ERA, including 56 Ks in IVL play with a 0.56 ERA — Lerno turned up her game in the postseason.

In four playoff games, Lerno pitched every inning, struck out 18 — 12 in the team's 4-1 win over Madison on May 20 — and, more important, gave up no earned runs.

"I knew I had a job to do out there. There were a few times when I was a little nervous, but if you get nervous and let it get to you, it makes you play worse," said Lerno. "In the situations that we were in, I just had confidence in my defense to make plays behind me. But a big part of what I was able to do had to do with (catcher) Nikki (Cordova). She does a good job calling the games and pretty much knows what I want to throw."

Like Lerno, Cordova is a freshman and caught every game for Southwest this year, calling every pitch behind the plate.

"I thought Melissa pitched very well during the playoffs. It seemed like every game she just kept throwing harder and harder," said Cordova, 15. "There were some situations where runners were on base with only one out, but I knew she'd be able to get out of it. We all just have that confidence in her to get it done."

Lerno said she is looking forward to defending the team's IVL title and getting back to the CIF championship.

"The way we lost was disappointing, but there's nothing we can do about that now. We just have to start looking toward next season," said Lerno. "Next year we're going to be a lot better because we'll all have played with each other longer. Winning league is a big thing and it is important, but I really hope that we can win CIF next year."

HONORABLE MENTION

>> Rashauna Amos, Southwest High School track and field, took third place in the 100 meters in 12.22 seconds at the Masters meet in Poway on Saturday. She qualified for the CIF state track and field meet. Amos also placed seventh in the 200 in 26.14.

>> Jessica Conway, Southwest High School softball, recorded six hits and one RBI in four CIF San Diego Section Division III playoff games last week.

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