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With two no-hitters from junior Eva Hurtado in its first two playoff games, the JSerra softball team had been dominant to open the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs, but the longest postseason run in program history came to an end on Thursday, May 11.
Top-seeded Moorpark ended JSerra’s no-hit streak on the first batter of the game and just kept coming with baserunners in every single inning to defeat the Lions, 6-3, in a Division 2 quarterfinal game at JSerra Catholic High School.
“We’ve depended on Eva a ton, and I think a little bit of fatigue set in today,” JSerra coach Katie Stith said. “I don’t think we played bad. We potentially hit more balls harder than they did, and we were unlucky today. Sometimes that’s just how the game goes. We didn’t get calls that went our way. It was a day where we weren’t catching the breaks.”
JSerra (19-11) made the playoffs for the first time since 2007 last season and earned its first two playoff wins in program history this season.
“I’m proud of the girls for their fight and wanting and expecting to win that game,” Stith said. “Last year… we lost in the first round. I think we were a little overwhelmed. We didn’t know what that was going to be like and going to feel like, so I think we pressed a little bit. Now, we’re more relaxed, and it’s just play and compete.”
In Hurtado’s two no-hitters in the first two playoff wins over Warren and Caynon, the junior starter had put up nearly identical statlines in the circle. Hurtado allowed no runs, no hits, six strikeouts, three walks and one hit batter against Warren and one run, no hits, six strikeouts, three walks and one hit batter against Canyon.
“Her ball had a lot of bite (in the first two rounds),” Stith said. “There was a downward tail, a downward break. People just couldn’t stay on plane long enough to hit it. She was just in a groove. Her pace was really fast. She’s a dominant pitcher.”
However, Moorpark’s first two batters of the game got hits to snap the no-hit streak, and the Musketeers had a hit in every inning except the sixth. Moorpark scored six runs on 11 hits with six walks, a hit batter and five strikeouts.
“Today, a couple more of her pitches were up. Even the balls were missing up. Typically, she’ll miss more lateral than elevated,” Stith said. “We can’t expect her to pitch a no-hitter every game. That’s a lot of pressure. We just got out hit today.”
While Moorpark got the first hit, it was JSerra that scored the first run in the bottom of the first. Brooke Stephens, a sophomore, got on base in the lead-off spot on an error, and sophomore Reese Ferel immediately sent Stephens home with a follow-up triple for the lead, 1-0.
Moorpark responded in the top of the second inning with a leadoff double and RBI single, and the Musketeers went ahead in the third inning with a leadoff walk and RBI triple. Moorpark pushed out in the fifth with a leadoff single that eventually scored on a wild pitch and a RBI triple.
For JSerra’s bats, the Lions stranded one runner in each of the first, second and fourth innings, and after loading the bases with one out in the fifth, JSerra lined out to the centerfielder and grounded out to third to end the scoring threat.
The Lions finally capitalized in the sixth inning. Sophomore Bella Bos led off with a double, and junior Mia Krueger followed with a walk. Kealani Caster, a senior, brought Bos and Krueger home on a two-out double to cut the deficit to one run, 4-3.
In the seventh inning, Moorpark reestablished its three-run advantage with a bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly.
JSerra got to second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but a pop fly and a diving catch in left field ended the game and the Lions’ postseason.
The future remains bright for JSerra, though, with three juniors and four sophomores in Thursday’s starting lineup, including three sophomores in the top three spots in the order.
“We have come a long way,” Stith said. “I have people here that want to win, people that want to be competitive. It makes my job a little easier when they put the work in.”