YUCCA VALLEY — With three strikeouts in a row in the top of the seventh inning Thursday, the Lady Trojans achieved something no other Yucca Valley softball team has: They advanced to the second round in the Division 5 playoffs.
The Yucca Valley High School team beat the Vista Del Lago Ravens from Moreno Valley 3-0 in round one of CIF Southern Section division playoffs Thursday afternoon.
Senior pitcher Haley Smith allowed just two hits and struck out 14 Ravens. She also led the Trojans in battings with two hits in three at-bats.
“Honestly, I was really nervous,” Smith confessed after taking the win. “It’s round one of CIF.”
Smith wants eke out as much as she can from her high school career before joining her sister, Lady Trojan softball alumna Madison Smith, at Geneva College in Pennsylvania next year.
“I’m glad it’s not my last game,” she said.
The Trojans were bumped up to Division 5 in 2016 after a 12-0 league season where they got to the second round in the playoffs. In the next two years, they were stopped at round one every year — until 2019.
Throwing change-ups, the Ravens’ sophomore pitcher, Jazlyn Contreras, was able to stifle the Trojans in a way they haven’t been all year.
“We were definitely stumped by their pitching, but our defense was pretty perfect,” head coach Lance Cody said. “Our senior pitcher came through again.”
The teams were tied at 0-0 until the top of the third inning, with Cody and assistant coaches Ernesto Gamboa Sr. and Ernesto Gamboa Jr. pacing and preaching patience.
“You’ve got to be patient! We should be teeing up on that pitcher,” Gamboa Sr. told the Trojans on their way out of the dugout. “Relax, tee up and when your pitch comes, let go.”
“They can’t hold you for long,” Cody shouted at the dugout.
The Trojans set up for a run when Stefanie Huff, Riley Rohr and Max Wheeler all took walks to load the bases. Montana Rowe stepped in the box and started hitting hard fouls against Contreras’ slow balls. The count was building when the Ravens catcher fumbled the ball. Rowe tried to take the chance to run to first but tripped on the ball and fell. Huff was able to capitalize and sprinted past the small moment of chaos between Rowe and the Ravens to steal home.
The Vista Del Lago coach appeared to be arguing the call, but the run stood and the Trojans were up 1-0.
Next in the Trojan lineup was Faithe Dudra, whose last at-bat had ended when the umpire called a strike that was certainly at the low end of the zone. Dudra returned to the box looking for a hit, and she got one — a double, in fact, that drove home Rohr and Wheeler.
The Trojans couldn’t find another hit, but Smith, Montana behind the plate and the fielders curbed the Raven batters for the rest of the match.
Cody formally announced after the win that he won’t be returning for another year as head coach.
“It’s been a great season — great players, great parents,” Cody said. “I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out.”
The Trojans will travel to Torrance High School for their second-round match at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. The Torrance Tartars went 7-3 in the Pioneer League and 20-9 overall. They are ranked first in CIF Division 5.