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By Apolinar Fonseca / The Hanford Sentinel
BY JEFF EVANS, Californian staff writer email@example.com
HANFORD -- The opportunities were there for third-seeded Tehachapi to earn its first Central Section softball title.
But Hanford West junior pitcher Breanna Young wiggled out of every threat the Warriors mustered.
Top-seeded Hanford West captured its second straight Division III title, 1-0 over the Warriors before a standing-room-only crowd at Hanford West.
"With hindsight being 20-20, were there things we could have done differently? I'll be thinking about that," said Tehachapi coach Tracy Goodell, whose squad finishes the season 28-5 and had a 14-game winning streak snapped.
"They're a good team, and good girls, too," Goodell added. "If I had to lose -- and I hate it -- it was to a good team, a classy team."
The Huskies (29-7) started an all-underclassman lineup: one freshman, five sophomores and three juniors. They failed to score after loading the bases on three straight walks with none out in the third, then scored the game's only run in the fourth against Warriors' starting pitcher Kelsey Kapitzke.
Young led off the Hanford West fourth with a sharp ground ball single up the middle and pinch runner Demi Balbina was sacrificed to second. Karsyn Guzman then lined a sharp single to right-center, scoring Balbina without a throw.
Tehachapi had scoring chances in each of the first three innings, and then mounted a last-ditch threat in the seventh.
Maria Berryman smoked a single to right-center to open the seventh. Then came one of those key decisions: whether to have leadoff batter Bre Farinas sacrifice or swing away.
The decision: let her swing away.
"We thought about it (bunting)," Goodell said. "But Bre has come through with big hits all year for us."
Farinas hit a hard grounder, but right to shortstop Guzman, who got the forceout at second with Farinas beating the throw to first to avoid a double play.
Tara Steinbach followed with a sinking line drive second baseman Hannah Harger caught off her shoe tops. Farinas was caught off base, but first baseman Briana Pontecorvo dropped the throw to prevent a game-ending double play, keeping the Warriors' hopes alive.
Kapitzke singled to left and Farinas stopped at second after left fielder Ali Blackburn, racing in, short-hopped the hit on a risky play. Farinas would have scored easily if the ball had bounced away.
Cleanup batter Ashley Carter walked to load the bases before Stephanie Medina lined out to shortstop Guzman to end it.
In each of the first three innings, Tehachapi put two runners on base but stranded all six runners, going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. The Warriors left 11 on base in all.
"All we asked was for everyone to give it everything they've got and leave it all on the field," Goodell said. "It was 1-0. We hit the ball hard but right at people."
Kapitzke showed frustration in the third inning when she walked the first three batters.
"It's tough when the umpire is not watching movement or seeing the corners," Kapitzke said. "But you can't stop. You've got to keep going."
She escaped that jam by inducing a slow grounder to third that was turned into a forceout at the plate, then she struck out the Huskies' No. 3 and 4 batters.
"It was a very well-played game. Both teams played great," Hanford West coach Jeff Harger said.
The Warriors and Huskies split two early-season games, with Tehachapi winning 9-6 and losing 1-0.
"We charted them, how they pitched to us and how they hit," Harger said. "That really wasn't a factor today. But their pitcher (Kapitzke) -- I don't remember her throwing that hard when she faced us earlier."
"We were so excited to make it this far," said Kapitzke, who has accepted a softball scholarship to Division II Maryville University in St. Louis. "They underestimated us. Not a lot of people know how we play. ...
"We were ready to go. We tried. There's nothing more we could have done. We had out chances. We just didn't break through."