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Don't fence me in: Hart falls

Posted: May 23, 2008 1:29 a.m.
Updated: July 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Somebody had to go home.

For the third straight year at Newhall Park, either Hart (25-5) or Norco would move on in the Southern Section Division I Playoffs. The other team would pack its bags for the offseason. The first seven innings weren't enough to decide a winner Thursday afternoon, but Norco (29-5) finally broke through in the first extra frame, scoring in the top of the eighth and coming away with a 1-0 win to advance to the semifinals.

"We had potential to go all the way but that was a great team too," said Hart pitcher Destiny Rodino, as she fought back tears. "One of us had to come out on top and unfortunately it wasn't us."

Two years ago, Norco knocked out Hart in the second round. Last year, Hart returned the favor with a 5-2 win in the semifinals.

"We kind of joked, it was our turn," Norco coach Rick Robinson said.

With two of the most dominant pitchers in Southern California going toe to toe, offense was at a premium. As the tension mounted and the innings increased, so did the amount of baserunners against Rodino. But she found a way to get out of jams in the fifth inning, with runners on first and third, in the sixth with two runners on, and in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out. In the latter of the three innings, Rodino took a comebacker and turned it into a 1-2-3 double play ending the inning.

In the eighth, with a runner on third and one out, Rodino wasn't as lucky. Norco's Brianna Smith hit a grounder to short, allowing Nicole Sappingfield to slide in under the tag at home on a bang- bang play. It was the proverbial game of inches.

"It's small ball," Rodino said. "Any little thing can happen in softball. That's how it is, one hit, one pitch, one bunt. It just didn't go our way today."

As Rodino battled to hold down Norco's offense, her counterpart, Teagen Gerhart punched out 13 Hart batters and gave up just two hits.

"She had a really good rise ball, that's what got us," senior Heather Zimmerman said.

Gerhart, who's narrowed down her choices to California or Stanford according to Rodriguez, has allowed less than three hits a game on average this season. But she can thank the fenceless field at Newhall Park for not allowing her third hit of the game and possibly the game winning run.

Devon Lindvall hit a deep fly ball to right field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh that fell helplessly into the glove of a Norco outfielder.

"For any other high school softball team the game is over there but unfortunately we're over here on this city field so we play it the way we play it," Hart coach Steve Calendo said.

Despite that play and several controversial calls, Calendo refused to make excuses.

In the bottom of the eighth, Caitlyn Zimmerman, who was pinch running for Rodino was called out stealing second with one out. In the bottom of the sixth, Alexis Caso thought she had a double but was called back when the ball was ruled foul.

Calendo said he had no complaints. Instead he praised Norco. And he pitied his team and his seniors.

"They've played their hearts out, Destiny pitched he heart out," he said. (Norco) executed a little better than we did today, they beat us today."

It was a quarterfinal game yet Rodriguez thought the game had all the makings of a CIF Final. There was the great pitching, the mistake less defense for both sides, and some clutch hitting. In the end, Norco's persistence with the bats prevailed.

"It was one of those games we kept getting runners on base and we've always preached all year to this team if you put the ball in play good things will happen," Robinson said. "And in the end after putting the ball in play enough times, good things did happen."

Good things happened for Hart this season too. It just didn't end the way they wanted it to. They celebrated together through a 25 win season and they cried together after Thursday's loss.

Heather Zimmerman and Rodino, a junior held onto each other after the game.

"(The season) was amazing, but I feel sucky," Zimmerman said.

Rodino said she felt bad she couldn't bring the seniors to the title. After a game that someone had to lose, Rodino put her head on Zimmerman's shoulder. Defeated but proud of the way they played.

"It was a very good season, we fell a little bit short of our ultimate goal, but they won 25 games, tied for (Foothill) league, it was a very good season," Calendo said.


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