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IRVINE — Los Alamitos’ softball team carried a nothing-to-lose attitude into the CIF-SS playoffs after finishing second in the Surf League and being unranked in the final Division 1 poll.
But after a string of upsets and more stellar play for most of Saturday night, the Griffins seemingly had everything to win.
They were two outs away from capturing the Division 1 title.
A spirited rally in the bottom of the seventh inning from Roosevelt, however, dramatically flipped the script and forced the Griffins to recall their humble beginnings to the postseason, when the expectations weren’t high for the underdog.
No. 3-seeded Roosevelt scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh, with the key blow being a bases-loaded, three-run single by Emily Carr with one out, to stun Los Alamitos 5-4 before an overflow crowd of 3,000 at Deanna Manning Stadium.
Senior Jordan Elies raced all the way from first base to score the winning run on the drive into the gap in right as Roosevelt (27-3) took its first and only lead of the game. The Mustangs celebrated wildly as the Griffins’ large group of supporters turned quiet.
There was some confusion after the walk-off hit as the Griffins tagged Carr but the game was over as the winning run had already scored.
“That’s a tough one to swallow,” Los Alamitos coach Rob Weil said. “I said (to our players), you have nothing to hold your head down about. You were in a CIF Division 1 championship game with the best of the best. One percent of kids gets to play in this game as an athlete.
“We were under-the-radar all year,” he added. “We weren’t that real elaborate team. We didn’t have a bunch of superstars. We just had a bunch of gritty kids who competed and played hard for each other. (But) they are 16, 17, 18 years old. It’s hard to absorb (that perspective) when you’re two outs away from being a CIF champion.”
Roosevelt started the seventh at the No. 3 spot in its lineup and used two hits and a walk to load the bases with one out against Griffins pitcher Sydney Saldana. The Utah State-bound senior had escaped jams all night, stranding 10 through six innings. But a slap single from Elies and the game-winner from Carr capped the comeback.
“Syd pitched a heck of a game,” Weil said. “She pitched incredible during these playoffs. If if wasn’t for her, we would not have been in this game today. No way.”
Los Alamitos (24-8) showed much of the form that helped it defeat No. 4 seed Camarillo and top-seeded and undefeated Oaks Christian in the playoffs.
No. 9 batter Callie Fitzpatrick and cleanup hitter Taylor Johnson belted solo home runs over the 220-foot fence. Third baseman Giselle Alvarez and left fielder Malayna Terrones sparkled on defense. And Saldana escaped one jam after another until the seventh.
Los Alamitos scored twice in the top of the first inning on run-scoring doubles by Jazzy Santos and Johnson.
Leadoff batter Julie Holcomb (3 for 4) sparked the inning with a bunt single. The center fielder raced home from first base on a drive by Santos to the gap in right.
Roosevelt responded with one run in the bottom of the first inning with a one-out, bases-loaded single by Alexia Lopez, but Saldana retired the next two batters to escape the jam.
Los Alamitos escaped another jam in the bottom of third. Roosevelt opened the inning by placing runners on first and third with no outs but Saldana induced two groundouts and a line out.
Sophomore second baseman Isabella Rodriguez recorded the final out by blocking a hard grounder and throwing to Johnson at first.
The defensive gems for Los Alamitos were just beginning. Alvarez recorded a key out in the fourth inning by fielding a high chopper and throwing out speedy Jasmine Goins. Johnson made an excellent stretch at first to help nab the runner.
After Fitzpatrick smashed a one-out home run down the left field line in the fifth to give Los Al a 3-1 lead, Terrones made a diving catch in left field in the bottom of the inning to give the Griffins more momentum.
Johnson launched another solo home run to make it 4-1 in the sixth but Roosevelt, which lost in the Division 1 final to Esperanza last season in a walk-off, had some major plans for the seventh.