Anaheim Esperanza’s Audrey Robles knew she wanted to take the pitch to the opposite field.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh of the Southern Section Division 1 softball title game, she stepped to the plate with a runner on third, a chance at glory awaiting her.
She noted how Eastvale Roosevelt pitcher Priscilla Llamas was peppering the outside corner. And she cracked a ground ball through the right side, scoring Taylor Shumaker to clinch the championship.
“I was just thinking, deep breath,” Robles said.
Friday night’s championship game at Barber Park in Irvine was a nailbiter at every turn of a 3-2 Esperanza victory, a classic pitcher’s duel between Llamas and Emily Gomez, who received the game ball. It was young versus old: Llamas a freshman, Gomez a senior.
It was power vs. finesse: Llamas confounding Esperanza hitters with offspeed pitchers, Gomez firing fastball after fastball. Both went the entire game, with Llamas striking out six and Gomez giving up four hits.
Robles, who also cracked a triple in the third inning and eventually scored Esperanza’s second run, and Roosevelt center fielder Dakota Carter both notched two hits. Shumaker hit a clutch, two-out triple in the seventh inning before scoring the winning run.
The team’s “vocal leader” in Hannah Coor, according to coach Ed Tunstall, laid out to make a pair of incredible diving catches. She was one of a few players on Esperanza to step on a high school diamond for the final time. Coor is committed to Oklahoma, catcher Raquelle Ngue is headed to Palomar College and first baseman Kaylee Barkley will attend Southwest Oklahoma State. Gomez is attending Boise State but likely will not play softball there after enrolling in the nursing program, Tunstall said.
Earlier in the week, Tunstall tabbed Robles as the team’s most improved player this season, as she hit close to .400 after winning the second base job at the start of the season.
Now, she walks away from the season a hero and a champion too.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.