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Mission Viejo softball holds off Millikan to claim CIF-SS Division 2 title

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IRVINE — Mission Viejo’s softball team punctuated a dominating run through the CIF-SS playoffs with one more emotional performance Friday night.

Sophomore Sofia Elliott struck out the No. 9 batter with the tying-run at second base and the go-ahead run at first to seal the Diablos’ 2-1 victory against Millikan in the Division 2 final at Deanna Manning Stadium.

Elliott’s eighth strikeout clinched the Diablos’ third section title — and first since 2016 — and capped a postseason in which she allowed only one run while earning five victories in the circle. Second-seeded Mission Viejo (26-5) outscored its playoff opponents a combined 22-1.

“I just love these girls,” fifth-year Diablos coach Clint Watson said. “Since September, all the hard work. All the days they were upset with me because we went three, four days hard. And I told them, it will pay off.”

Elliott (20-3) fired a two-hitter against Millikan (22-11) but navigated a wild top of the seventh in which the tying-run reached on a one-out error, the Diablos’ fourth of the game.

After recording a strikeout on a two-strike foul bunt attempt, Elliott walked her first batter to put runners at first and second with two outs. On the final at-bat, Mission Viejo right fielder Brooke Finneran nearly ended the game by chasing down a foul ball along the fence but it bounced off her glove.

“It was crazy,” Elliott said of the top of the seventh. “In the last inning, I was really trying to work my pitches. Stay on the edge, and trust my defense a lot.”

After a celebratory dogpile on the field, Mission Viejo’s players shed tears of joy and flashed four fingers — for “forever” — in a group photo.

“It’s four years of work you put into one program,” senior shortstop Sammi Woods said of the title. “When it actually pays off, especially your senior year, it’s so bittersweet because it’s amazing … but then you realize, well, you have to leave.”

“But I’m glad we got to do it with this group of girls,” said Shayna Glass, a four-year varsity player with Woods, her close friend. “This is a total team effort.”

Mission Viejo opened a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with a one-out, RBI triple by Elliott to the gap in right. The drive looked like it was going to be caught but the ball carried and narrowly escaped the center fielder’s glove as Ava Tabangcura scored from second base.

“I thought it was going to be caught,” Ellliott said of the drive. “I just kept running.”

Glass followed one batter later by belting a double to the gap in the left to score courtesy runner Sienna Cline, who extend the lead to 2-0.

Millikan starter Ava Schaffel settled down after that, retiring 13 straight batters until a two-out single by Finneran in the fifth. The sophomore finished with 10 strikeouts.

Elliott was sharp from the start. She struck out six through five innings and didn’t allow a hit until a leadoff single in the sixth by Robin Garcia, the Rams’ No. 9 batter. Garcia moved to second on a groundout and scored on a one-out single to left by Erica Estrada, who took second on an error.

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