They figured the young Scorpions would need to take a few baby steps in the playoffs before making the biggest leap.
But Camarillo wasn’t content to wait for its success. The Scorpions were determined to seize the moment.
Behind a complete-game four-hitter by Sarah Shadinger and an early home run by Bianca Noriega, fourth-seeded Camarillo defeated La Mirada 5-1 in the CIF-SS Division 2 title game on Saturday afternoon at Deanna Manning Stadium.
After two years of league title failures and early-round playoff exits, Camarillo fully restored the program’s successful tradition this season.
The title is just the second in program history following Camarillo’s 5-A crown in 1991, and the first under head coach Jack Willard.
“I never expected this because of the past years when I played for this team, but we started practicing more and kept winning our games and everyone just had a lot of faith,” Shadinger said. “We didn’t really know all the freshmen on our team, but they came in and showed their stuff and really helped. I am just so happy for everyone.”
Camarillo (26-7), which fielded a starting lineup with three freshmen, two sophomores and three juniors, was staked to an early lead by Noriega’s solo home run in the second inning that cleared the center field fence.
The Scorpions scored a second run in the fourth on an RBI single by Kristie Dederick, and added two more in the fifth on RBI singles by Jenna King and Shelbie Franc.
Dederick drove in the final run to give Camarillo a 5-0 lead with another RBI single in the sixth inning.
La Mirada (21-12) scored its only run in the sixth inning on an RBI double by Annie Di Pillo. The Matadores thought they had another run, but it was taken off the board after they were ruled to have batted out of order.
Shadinger managed to escape bases-loaded jams in the second and sixth innings to push her school-record win total to 23 games and school-record strikeout total to 256.
“I was never really worried because my defense always has my back out there,” the Oregon State-bound junior said. “Our saying is ‘We believe,’ and all the girls have bracelets that say ‘Believe’ on them. That is our thing and we wear it every single practice and game.”
Willard came close to coaching in the title game several times in his career, but never broke through until this year. Although he made several shrewd moves throughout the playoffs, he deflected all the credit to his players.
“I am incredibly happy for these kids. They have really worked hard and they have done everything we have asked of them,” Willard said. “It’s been a process from September to now, but we have developed as a team. The older players accepted the younger players and the younger kids jumped in feet first and have been a part of everything.”
Camarillo’s two starting seniors came through in the final game of their careers. Dederick finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs while King was 3 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
“I am happy I got to end it the right way. I am loving every minute of it with my girls,” King said. “I got to dive a little in center field and throw to the plate too, which is rare sometimes with a pitcher as good as Sarah.”
Noriega will be getting more than just a championship patch and T-shirt as tokens of Camarillo’s success. Her father promised to buy his only child a Mustang if the Scorpions won a CIF-SS title.
“I did ask for that, and I will probably get it,” Noriega said with a sheepish smile. “That was not on my mind when we were playing though.”
After a season filled with dramatic endings that likely added a few gray hairs, Willard was still disappointed Camarillo would not be practicing on Monday.
“What a great experience for the kids to be in this situation and to be a part of this,” he said. “I wish every athlete could get this chance. A lot of incredible softball players at Camarillo High never had the opportunity these kids had. It’s special.”