San Fernando Tigers end Successful run with loss in State Regional Playoffs
Stepping up to a challenge is a sign of maturity, and the San Fernando Tigers saw two freshman pitchers do just that in their CIF Southern California Regional playoff match. Madison Nanez and Jasslyn Rodriguez held a dominant Boron Bobcats team to just two runs while the Tigers defense supported them with standout plays in the field. Boron came in with a 22-2 record, winners of the CIF Central Section Division 5 championship, while San Fernando entered at 19-7 and was the runner up in the CIF City Section Division 1 championship. Nanez and Rodriguez gave San Fernando a fighting chance to host the regional semi-finals, but Boron was able to hold on for a 2-1 victory with the winning run on base in the bottom half of the seventh inning.
Nanez started the game for the Tigers, escaping the inning generally unscathed after senior catcher Natalia Hernandez picked off Hailey Davis, who had singled, at first base. Boron pitcher Jordan Rice came out throwing heat, striking out all three batters on less than 15 pitches in the first inning. Nanez continued to hold the Bobcats in check for the next two innings, facing the minimum nine batters through three innings.
The San Fernando bats continually worked to put pressure on Rice, even though the first six outs she recorded were via strikeout, and she finished the contest with 15 K’s. Senior first baseman Arianna Ramirez was a constant threat at the plate, blasting a one-out triple in the second inning that put immediate stress on Rice. She would walk Mariana Briones and Daniella Martinez around a strikeout to load the bases before getting Nanez on a called third strike to end the inning.
The Tigers would add hits in every inning, getting a runner into scoring position in the fifth, sixth, and seventh inning. Unfortunately for San Fernando, they were unable to score until late in the game. “We didn’t get that timely hit.” Said Tigers coach Danny Arguello after the game. “If we would have had runners on and there was a hit, it’s a different ball game”
Boron also had runners on base in 6 out of 7 innings, but only had one inning where they put real stress on Nanez, and ultimately chased her from the game in the fourth inning. Kaili York led off the inning with a triple to right field that went just under the glove of Azaylea Vargas. Leannie Lopez brought her home on the very next pitch with a sharp single to center field. Hernandez caught Lopez trying to steal second base with Davis up to bat. On the pitch after the out, Davis crushed a ball out of the park onto Chamberlain Street to give Boron a 2-0 lead. The next two batters would also reach, one on an error and the other on a four-pitch walk.
Rodriguez would be brought on in relief, charged with getting the final two outs with runners on first and second base. She would surrender a single through the right side, but would get an inning ending double play to escape without any further damage. That double play was an amazing play that came on the heels of an overruled double play due to the ball going into foul territory. First, Abbie Lopez hit a ground ball to third base that Briones fielded and threw home, followed by a quick throw to first. That play, however, was overruled because the ball had crossed into foul territory as Briones corralled it. The double play came shortly after, when Lopez lined a hot shot towards first base. Ramirez speared the ball for the first out and dove back to tag the base to complete the double play and keep the score 2-0 going into the bottom of the inning.
Pitching and defense took over until the bottom of the sixth inning, when San Fernando used a two-out rally to cut the deficit in half. Ramirez worked a walk to start off the inning, but Rice quickly struck out the next two batters to put Boron in a position to escape the inning. Martinez would then hit a double into right field and Ramirez powered her way around the bases to score. Nanez reached on an error, and suddenly the tying and go-ahead runs were on base. After a defensive meeting was called, Rice regrouped and, with an 0-2 count, got Bernyce Villegas to ground the ball to shortstop for the final out.
The Tigers defense helped Rodriguez keep the Bobcats off the board in the top of the seventh inning, giving San Fernando an opportunity to either tie or win the game in the bottom half of the inning. Rice made it difficult on the Tigers, striking out Adrianna Hernandez with a full count and getting Natalia Hernandez to pop out to second base to put San Fernando’s season on the brink. The Tigers were not ready to just give up and they showed the fight that got them to this point in the season.
Senior Kaylie Morales, who was 0-3 with three strikeouts, battled and hit a two-strike pitch past the shortstop into center field for a single. Boron then decided to intentionally walk Ramirez. She had hit Rice hard twice, with her second inning triple and a sharp ball to shortstop that resulted in a close out at first base. That walk brought the tying run into scoring position, and Ramirez represented the potential winning run at first.
Briones came up to bat and battled through the at bat. She lined a ball down the third base line that would have at least tied the game, but it was just barely foul. She fouled off another pitch before Rice got her to strike out swinging to end the game and the Bearcats rushed the field to celebrate their 2-1 victory.
The coaches’ message to the Tigers after the loss was full of praise for their resilience, not only in this game, but throughout the season “That’s the heart we have, and had all season long.” Arguello said, “We scrape and scrape and scrape. These girls never give up. Even if we lose, we still battle. We were never blown out.”
The future is bright for San Fernando, as the Tigers will be returning nine players most of whom played key roles this season. Arguello said that in addition to his two pitchers in this game, Nanez and Rodriguez, all three of his outfielders are underclassmen. The only position that does not have a returning player is at catcher. Knowing this, Arguello does envision the team’s goals being one step above where they finished this season, where they were runners up in the Valley Mission League and in the D1 championship. The Tigers will look to build on this experience and push for titles next season.