Santiago sticks together after heartbreaking loss to Nordhoff in Division 6 softball final

IRVINE – Santiago softball accomplished one historical feat after another this spring as a team. The Cavaliers handled the end of their run Friday with the same bond despite the cruelest of twists.

Nordhoff of Ojai scored on a two-out throwing error in the bottom of the seventh inning to upset top-seeded Santiago 3-2 in the CIF-SS Division 6 championship at Bill Barber Park’s Deanna Manning Stadium.

  • Home plate umpire Rudy Salinas calls Nordhoff’s Elizabeth Hermosillo out at home after Santiago catcher Katherine Sua applied the tag in the first inning of the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Nordhoff pitcher Sidney Wimpee throws to the plate against Santiago in the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Nordhoff celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Santiago 3-2 in the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Santiago pitcher Renamarie Rocha throws to the plate against Nordhoff in the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Nordhoff pitcher Sidney Wimpee throws out Santiago’s Samantha Castro at first during the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Santiago head coach Melissa Adams cheers from the dugout during their game against Nordhoff in the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Nordhoff’s Elizabeth Hermosillo is out at home trying to score past Santiago catcher Katherine Sua in the first inning of the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Santiago head coach Melissa Adams walks to the dugout between innings during their game against Nordhoff in the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Santiago head coach Melissa Adams in the dugout during their game against Nordhoff in the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Santiago fans cheer during their game against Nordhoff in the CIF-SS Division 6 softball championship game at Bill Barber Park in Irvine on Friday, May 17, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Defense helped carry Santiago (26-2) to its first section final — and kept them in the game several times — but Cavaliers coach Melissa Adams didn’t pin the painful loss on the error on the final play.

“It’s a team effort,” Adams said moments after her players wiped away tears and laughed in a team photo with the runner-up plaque.

“It takes more than that one play (to lose). … Offensively, we didn’t do our job (enough). Defensively, we did pretty well.”

Santiago and Nordhoff (19-10) were tied 2-2 entering the bottom of the seventh.

With one out, Nordhoff freshman center fielder Willow Williams blooped a single to center, setting the stage for a bit of trickery from the Rangers.

Coach Don Rodarte waited for a 0-1 count to ask freshman Arianna Alonso to bunt. Alonso dropped a slightly-delayed bunt toward the third base side in front of home plate. Santiago’s previously undefeated ace Rena Rocha (26-1) collected the ball and threw to first base for the second out of the inning.

But Santiago then fired to second base in an attempt to pick off Williams after she rounded the bag, but the ball glanced off the fielder’s glove and rolled into the outfield. Williams scored the winning run standing up.

“They went out trying to be aggressive,” said Adams, who team captured a share of its first league title, won a school-record 26 games and opened the season 21-0. “It’s been a phenomenal year for the school and the girls. … The defense actually is the reason we’re here.”

Santiago turned an inning-ending double play in the first after Nordhoff scored twice on a two-run single by pitcher Sidney Wimpee.

Second baseman Aolani Sua, her sister and catcher Katherine Sua, shortstop Alyssa Tagle and Rocha each made sparkling defensive plays for the Cavaliers.

They tied the score 2-2 in the third on a RBI double by Rocha and a run-scoring single by Madison Lorton.

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