Lady Tigers and Vikings punch their tickets to CIF title games on the diamond
Imperial and Holtville cruise in semifinals as first local squads to reach championship weekend
IMPERIAL, Calif., (KYMA, KECY) - With goals set before the season even began, both Holtville and Imperial softball squads now find themselves on the brink of capturing those aspirations.
Tuesday marked semifinals day where each team entered the day in the drivers seat with a chance to punch their one-way ticket to their respective CIF championship games - and they did just that.
The Imperial Lady Tigers cruised through the first two rounds in the Division III bracket, culminating in a matchup with Point Loma on Tuesday on their home field.
In front of great home crowd, the Tigers pounced from the start, scoring two runs in the bottom of the 1st inning on a two-run double from Mirella Barron. After the Pointers answered with a solo home run in the top half of the 2nd inning, sophomore Jayden Rutledge settled in and never looked back.
Not only did she lock in within the circle and strikeout 10 batters on the day, she delivered at the plate - going 3-4 with a home run and 2 RBIs. Following her long ball in the 5th inning and RBI hits from Hannah Johnson and Andrea De la Trinidad to pad the lead in the 6th inning, Rutledge took the ball with a seven-run lead and looked to close it out.
The sophomore standout would strike out back-to-back batters in the 7th inning before getting a fly out to end the game and send the Tigers to the Division III title game on Saturday.
"It feels great with my team behind my back. I feel good, I feel confident. Ready to take on anyone. Really anyone at this point," said Rutledge after the celebration. "We have to have confidence. Confidence in our team, in our bats, everything. We have to be relaxed so we can have a great game as a team like we did right now and for the last couple of games that we had. We got it. I think we got it."
The Lady Tigers now wait for the winner of Christian and Mira Mesa in a deciding game on Thursday before taking the field at UCSD on Saturday at 4:00 pm.
Crossing over route 11 to Holtville, the Lady Vikings also sat in control of their own destiny - needing to get through Academy of Our Lady of Peace once again to reach their third straight CIF finals appearance.
It was not an easy start after OLP drove in a two-run single in the top of the 1st inning to put the Pilots in front first 2-0 before Kalli Strahm was able to work out of any more damage.
But then the opportunity came for the Vikings in the bottom of the 2nd inning - and the ladies did not seize the moment.
With two outs and one on base, McKenzie Price hit a chopper to third that was field and thrown on to first for what looked to be the inning ender. Instead, the ball was dropped, allowing pinch-runner Arielle Sotello to score from second and keep the inning alive.
And something teams cannot afford to do is give the Lady Vikings more life - so inevitably, the Vikings made them pay to go along perfectly with their motto "drown the rats."
After an Addison Clunn walk, Sophie Irungaray picked up where she left off on Friday with a base hit that scored Price to to tie the game at 2. Moments later, senior captain Kamryn Walker smelled more blood - and delivered more blood - lining a base hit up the middle to center field to score Clunn and give the Vikings their first lead, which they would never surrender.
Kalli Strahm would close the door the rest of the way, not allowing any more runs. The the Vikings offense would tack on one more run in the 3rd inning and two more in the 4th behind a couple defensive bluffs by the Pilots and a Kaitlyn Havens RBI single.
The Vikings await the winner of the deciding game between No. 1 Santana and No. 8 Westview on Thursday before they hit the field for the Division II CIF title game on Friday at 4:00 from the SDSU Softball Field.