El Camino Real wins 18th City Section softball title with comeback over Kennedy

Woodland Hills El Camino Real High will hold its commencement ceremony next month, and among the students who will walk across the stage will be 11 members of the softball team. Coach Jodi Borenstein is going to miss them.

Borenstein wrote the names of eight of those seniors into her starting lineup Saturday, then watched them smother Granada Hills Kennedy 12-6 to win their third consecutive City Section softball title. It was the school’s 18th softball championship overall, the most by one school in City Section history.

“I mean, that’s hard to do, right?” Borenstein asked. “It’s hard to beat a team three times in a row. It’s hard to win a championship three times in a row. And these girls are just not going to let anyone take that away from them. We’re now on top.”

In fact the coronavirus may be the only thing that kept the senior class from winning four titles: COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 playoffs.

“It’s real special. They deserve this moment,” Borenstein said. “We go on to regionals, but our ultimate goal was to win City.”

They did just that behind standout performances from Hannah Di Genova and Courtney Cohen, who clubbed fourth-inning homers that put ECR ahead to stay, and pitcher Brooke DeSmet, who struggled in the first two innings before making the play that changed the game.

Kennedy had batted around in the second inning, taking a 6-1 lead, and when Kiara Martinez walked to open the third, she became the 11th of 17 hitters to reach base against DeSmet. But pitcher Maya Ramirez followed by lining a ball back up the middle that DeSmet gloved before throwing to first to double off Martinez.

DeSmet (22-5) allowed just two hits and two walks the rest of the way.

“At the beginning they were loud. I was trying to tell myself ‘Oh, they’re cheering for me instead of their own batter’,” said DeSmet, who gave up six hits, four walks and hit a batter. “After that it kind of calmed down a little bit. That was a turning point.”

For Kennedy, it concluded a remarkable season. The Cougars made it to the playoffs despite losing their on-campus softball field to construction at the school, forcing the team to practice on the blacktop and play at a nearby park.

They also lost their two best pitchers to injury. Yet they made it to the City final by upsetting Granada Hills and Carson after entering the postseason with the second-lowest seed of the eight qualifiers.

For ECR, Di Genova and Cohen each finished with three hits, including their home runs, while Camryn Fritz had four runs batted in, two coming on a towering homer in the fifth inning. Afterward Di Genova, with another winner’s medal around her neck, reflected on her high school career.

“I played with most these people since I was 5 or 6,” she said. “So it’s crazy. And it’s sad seeing them go now. They mean a lot to me.”

Yet Fritz, whose homer came in her final City Section at-bat, said she was looking forward to graduation, even if it means never playing with these girls again.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “I mean, it’s life. You move on.”

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