Wilson softball has been on different paths to victory during the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs this month.
The Bruins came back to win in the final inning of the first round on the road last week, blew out San Marcos at home on Tuesday, and walked off winners 3-2 against Troy in the quarterfinals on Thursday at Joe Rodgers.
Wilson (18-11) will travel to West Ranch on Tuesday for its first semifinal in more than 15 years.
“It’s all about momentum, and that was another team effort in another tough game,” Wilson coach George Molina said.
The sophomore battery of pitcher Hailey Houston and catcher Natalya Rodriguez, who call their own pitches, were key to the Wilson victory. Houston went the distance while giving up four hits, two walks and two hit by pitch. The crafty righty struck out five and stranded the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
“People underestimate us because we’re sophomores,” Houston said. “But we use that to our advantage. We both know what we’re capable of and we work together very well. My rise ball and been a lot better so I was throwing that a lot.”
“We were jamming them a lot,” Rodriguez said. “(Houston) has a beautiful screwball and it was working too.”
Wilson had the lead for most of the game, and after Troy tied it up 2-2 in the sixth, Rodriguez came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. She battled with two strikes on her, and looped a game-winning single into center field that scored sophomore Sydney Freijanes, and set off the celebration.
“I just needed to be confident and pick a pitch I could drive and that’s exactly what I did,” Rodriguez said. “We never gave up, believed in our team and took one pitch at a time and got the job done.”
Troy (13-16) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Nadia Perez’s RBI triple with two outs. Wilson quickly tied it up in the bottom of the first when first baseman Sinclair Lawhorn led off with a double, and scored on Freijanes’ RBI single.
Wilson took a 2-1 lead in the third when Lawhorn led off with a single, and scored on senior Michelle Dominguez’s RBI single through the right side. The Bruins would strand seven more runners on base before scoring again. Wilson had 12 hits off Troy starter Bri Castellon.
Troy tied the game 2-2 in the sixth with another two out rally thanks to a Bruin error, and after leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, Wilson came out swinging in the seventh.
Freijanes led off the inning with her third single of the game, and took second on a sacrifice bunt from Dominguez. Sophomore Ava Trachta followed that up with a single to left field, and freshman Leah Pettway was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. That brought Rodriguez to the place.
“Natalya did a great job putting that ball in play and that’s what we talk about all of the time,” Molina said. “We work every day hitting. That’s all we do, every single practice.”
“On our team everyone has a job and everyone knows how to execute that job,” Houston said. “I have total faith in our team to come back and do what we need to do.”
Houston has pitched all 21 playoff innings for Wilson while scattering 18 hits and striking out 20.
“Besides her talent, it’s her demeanor and the way she goes out there with the ball,” Molina said of Houston. “She’s got such composure that you wouldn’t know if we’re up by a few runs or down by a few runs. She’s the perfect leader as a pitcher because of her composure and great attitude. She’s very impressive and I’m very proud of her.”
Wilson has never played for a CIF softball championship, but Houston said her team isn’t worried about making history.
“I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about it together,” Houston said. “What we’re doing is working, so why not just stick with it?”
Sinclair Lawhorn – 1B, 2B, BB, 2 R
Sydney Freijanes – 3 1B, RBI, R
Michelle Dominguez – 1B, RBI
Leah Pettway – 2 1B
Griselda Jimenez – 1B, 2 BB