MISSION VIEJO — Mission Viejo’s softball team was all ready to close the door on San Juan Hills on Thursday afternoon.
The Diablos held a commanding seven-run lead in the seventh inning with their star freshman, Sofia Elliot, in the circle.
But the Stallions wrote a different ending.
San Juan Hills sprinkled a single here, a double there and smashed two towering home runs to force the game into extra innings.
“I took my blood pressure medicine this morning, so I was feeling okay,” Diablos coach Clint Watson said. “We took our foot off the gas pedal and give credit to San Juan (Hills). They didn’t quit.”
Mission Viejo (9-4, 2-0) ended up finishing with a 10-9 win when it scored on a wild pitch in the eighth inning, but afterwards Stallions coach Imoa Laufou had nothing but praise for his team’s resiliency.
“I just told them to stay focused, relaxed and keep the game as simple as possible,” Laufou said. “I have a lot of confidence in these girls.”
San Juan Hills (3-5, 0-1) cruised into the Diablos’ softball complex on the rollercoaster that has defined its season.
Dominant wins over Fullerton and Trabuco Hills to start the year were quickly overshadowed by a 21-0 shutout by Esperanza.
Two weeks later, the Stallions finished a game against city rival JSerra only to receive news that they were being forced to quarantine for two weeks because a player tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was challenging because this season is already cut so short,” senior catcher Sabrina Javorsky said. “We had a lot of things to work on.”
This was Mission Viejo’s first game since the quarantine but its offense looked sharp early. Sophomore outfielder Regan Legg crushed a 2-run home run over the right field fence and their dugout was loving it.
Elliot entered the contest not giving up more than three earned runs over her last four starts and quickly settled down.
She helped herself out when she hit a two-run double and watched her teammates display some home run ability as Olivia Birkinshaw hit a 2-run home run in the first, followed by two more home runs by Abygail Vieira in the second and fourth innings.
“I was just looking for a strike during both at bats,” Vieira said with a smile. “I was looking for that third (home run) but I knew I wasn’t going to get anything to hit.”
Vieira was just one of five seniors who were recognized before the game and, while she finished senior day a perfect 2-for-2, she said her emotions during the game were all over the place.
“It was a lot,” Vieira said . “It’s definitely frustrating, but I know (comebacks) happens no matter what level softball you are playing at.”
The Diablos scored three more runs in the sixth inning, but no one on Mission Viejo’s roster expected the seventh inning that the Stallions put together.
San Juan Hills started the seventh inning reaching base on a catcher’s interference, and then Elliot gave up four consecutive hits that concluded with a three-run home run by Javorsky.
“We had to play stronger than ever to win,” Javorsky said. “I play really good when I’m mad, and I was upset that we slacked in the middle innings. Seeing that seventh inning, I’m just proud of this team.”
Watson brought in Daniella Sanchez to relieve Elliot, but she gave up the game-tying home run to junior infielder Kaitlyn Perrucci.
“Sofia was missing her spots and Daniella said she was warm but it was apparent she wasn’t,” Watson said.
The Diablos finally got out of the nightmarish innings and regained their composure. They won soon after, when Brooke Finneran singled to right field and made her way around the diamond to score on a wild pitch.
The win puts Mission Viejo in sole possession of first place in the South Coast League and winners of four out of their last five games but, with two weeks remaining in the regular season, a rematch is scheduled in San Juan Capistrano on May 20.
“It was a wake up,” Watson said. “We knew this one almost got away from us.”
Mission Viejo will travel to Aliso Niguel next Tuesday, while San Juan Hills will travel to Dana Hills the same day.
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”12″ gal_title=”Mission Viejo vs. San Juan Hills softball”]