June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Pacifica defeats Orange Lutheran for second straight CIF Division 1 title

Pacifica players celebrate after capturing CIF Division 1 title Friday night. (Photos: Mark Bausman, For OC Sports Zone).

How sweet it is.

For the second consecutive year the Pacifica High School softball team captured the CIF Division 1 championship.

On Friday night at Deanna Manning Stadium in front of a standing-room-only crowd, Mariners ace Brynne Nally pitched a three-hit shutout to lead Pacifica to a 3-0 victory over Orange Lutheran.

“OLu has an amazing lineup and I’m usually a ground ball pitcher, but tonight they hit a lot of balls in the air, but my defense had my back,” said Nally, who had 11 strikeouts and walked only two batters.

Nally, a Long Beach State commit, and her counterpart, OLu’s Brianne Weiss, a Notre Dame commit, dominated allowing a combined total of six hits and racked up 18 strikeouts.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Mariners (27-2) pushed across two runs.

Michaela Meza led off with a single to center and moved to second after Kaniya Bragg drew a walk. Delaina Ma’ae flied out to right, but Meza alertly tagged up on the play and moved to third with one out. Annika Sogsti then hit a pop up behind first base down the right field line that Lancers second baseman Mya Diaz made a fine catch on.

But she was out of position to make a strong thrown to home to get Meza, who aggressively tagged up and scored the first run of the game.

“I saw that the second baseman was going to make the catch, but I knew she was going to have a hard time making a throw to home,” said Meza. “The play was so stressful for me, but it’s great to be a champion and I am blown away and so happy.”

Cal Berkeley commit, Kayli Counts, followed by drilling an RBI double over the center fielder’s head, scoring Bragg and giving the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

“I’ve faced Brianne for a long time, since we’ve been 10-years old, and I knew she wasn’t going to throw inside to me and I was able hit a low pitch for the double,” said Counts.

The Lancers (21-4) rallied in the top of the sixth inning and were on the brink of tying the game.

Pinch hitter Alejandra Rodriguez beat out an infield single with one out and was pinched run for by Zoelle Gummeson. Kai Minor then drew a base on balls. The next batter Zara Mineo-Schrank grounded a ball to second that Malia Cuevas scooped up and threw to Bragg at second base to narrowly force out Minor for the second out of the inning.

Gummeson moved to third on the play. Nally and Pacifica then then got a big assist from third baseman Brooklyn Reyes, who raced over near the Mariners dugout and made a spectacular catch on a foul ball for the third out of the inning.

“I saw the ball and I just jumped as quick as I could to get to it and it pumped us up,” said Reyes. “Last year I was more of a pinch runner, so this championship means so much more because I was on the field a lot more.”

Nally said she kept her cool in the sixth inning when OLu was rallying.

“When I’m in the circle, I know I’m in control and if I act calm, then I know everybody else will be calm,” said Nally, who admitted being nervous. “This is such a great way for me to end my senior year. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’ll never forget this game.”

With one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Mariners got an insurance run when Bragg powered her eighth home run of the season over the right center field fence to up Pacifica’s lead to 3-0.

“Brianne had gotten me out earlier in the game and I felt it was time for a banger,” said Bragg, an UCLA commit, who was mobbed by her teammates as she crossed home plate. “I think I hit an outside riser and it felt good.”

For good measure, Nally struck out the side in the seventh inning to end the game and secure Pacifica’s championship.

“The second championship was a lot harder than the first one,” said Mariners Coach Tony Arduino, who earned his 100th career victory. “Last year we surprised everybody, but this year we had a target on us. Our seniors have been with us for four years and they never gave up. I think we hit our peak after the Capo Valley game late in the season and we just kept going.”

OLu coach Steve Miklos was gracious in defeat.

“It was a great season and it is a joy to coach this team; I am so proud of our girls,” said Miklos, whose team won the Trinity League and was riding a nine-game winning streak entering Friday’s game. “This loss doesn’t define our team or our season.’

“We worked so hard and it has been such a wonderful season,” added Weiss, who struck out seven and walked two batters, while yielding only three hits. “It has been a wonderful experience playing at OLu. We all worked so hard.”

The Lancers were attempting to win the program’s first CIF softball championship since 2002 when the Lancers captured the Division 4 title.

Their last appearance in a CIF finals was 2016 when they lost to Los Alamitos. The Mariners, who captured the Empire League, won their 12th consecutive game and recorded their 12th shutout of the season. Nally improved to 19-2 and has struck out 136 batters on the season. Pacifica has also outscored its opponents this season 218-32.

Lancers center fielder Kia Minor made the defensive play of the game when she robbed Annika Sogsti of a homerun in the second inning when she reached high over the left center fence to make a spectacular catch.

Nally and Bragg were honored with game balls following the contest.

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone