Twenty years after the Camarillo High softball program captured its first section title, the Scorpions joyously returned to the top of the mountain.
Camarillo defeated La Mirada 5-1 last Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 championship game at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine.
In securing the school’s second section softball crown—the first was in Division 5A—Camarillo (26-7) relied on a healthy blend of timely hitting and highwire act pitching to prevail.
Junior right-handed hurler Sarah Shadinger went the distance in the circle for ACHS, allowing one run on four hits while striking out two and walking four.
Shadinger, an Oregon State commit who won a school-record 23 games this season, finagled her way out of jams all afternoon.
La Mirada left the bases loaded in the second and sixth innings, and stranded two more runners in the fourth. In all, La Mirada left nine runners on base.
“I told myself to calm down because it was such a big crowd,” Shadinger said. “My team told me to pitch how I normally pitch. . . .
“They battled me hard, which I expected because they made it to the finals, too. But the whole way, it was just me and (junior catcher Amy Anderson) playing catch the whole time.”
Junior Bianca Noriega provided ACHS with a second inning shot in the arm.
After fouling off a half-dozen pitches, Noriega launched a missile that easily cleared the centerfield fence, staking the Scorpions to a 1-0 advantage.
“It was in my wheelhouse,” said Noriega of the pitch. “I just took my swing and it went over.”
The home run marked a sweeping change in emotions for Noriega, who, in the semifinals, misplayed a ball in right field that led to a pair of runs crossing the plate.
“It erased a lot of those memories,” she said. “My emotions are so much different now.”
Shadinger said Noriega’s big blast was just what the Scorpions needed in the opening stages of the ballgame.
“Getting a run early makes it so much easier on our defense,” the pitcher said. “It also takes pressure off me, the catcher—everyone.”
Camarillo added to its lead in the top of the fourth inning.
With two outs, La Mirada intentionally walked Noriega to put runners on second and first.
Scorpion senior Kristie Dederick made the Matadores pay for their decision to skip Noriega and pitch to her instead, lacing a single to left fielder that scored senior Jenna King from second base.
As she was bearing down on home plate, King lifted her arm at just the right moment to avoid the tag and give ACHS a 2-0 lead.
For Dederick, the intentional walk to Noriega served as motivation to step up and deliver.
“I went up there ready to hit the first pitch, and it was right there,” Dederick said.
“No one is ever going to walk someone and get away with it. It just motivated me and pumped me up. It definitely helped out.”
King knocked in sophomore Hayley Chamberlin to give the Scorpions a 3-0 lead in the top of the fifth.
King later scored on sophomore Shelbie Franc’s RBI single.
“No matter what the score is, I always just want to get on base and pump everyone else up,” said King, one of three seniors on Camarillo’s roster.
“Then people are like, ‘Okay, she got on. Now I’m going to get on. And then the next person is going to get on.’ Any person can start it, and I’m happy to be the one to start it.”
Dederick inflicted more damage in the top of the sixth when she knocked in Noriega for a 5-0 Camarillo advantage.
It was Dederick’s second hit and second RBI in three at-bats.
The bottom of the sixth inning was something to remember.
After La Mirada made it a 5-1 ballgame on a no-out RBI double by freshman Annie Dipillo, chaos quickly ensued.
Matadores sophomore Shelbee Gomez came to the plate and singled to score Dipillo, narrowing ACHS’ lead to 5-2—or so it seemed.
Camarillo head coach Jack Willard claimed La Mirada had batted out of order and, after a prolonged discussion/argument with the La Mirada coaches, the umpires agreed with Willard’s claim.
The Matadores’ second run was wiped off the scoreboard; the baserunner was sent back to second, and La Mirada was assessed an out.
After the game, Willard said La Mirada had batted out of order as early as the fifth inning.
“I wasn’t going to point it out as long as their hitters kept making outs,” Willard said. “There was no point in doing that.”
With the out-of-order issue finally settled, the Scorpions managed two gritty outs between what could have been a costly error, and just like that the Matadores were once again left with the bases loaded and nowhere to run.
Willard works as an English teacher at Camarillo and coaches defense for the Newbury Park football squad. Rather than revel in the glory of his first CIF championship as a coach, Willard preferred to turn the spotlight toward his players and coaching staff.
“ I’m just happy for those girls,” Willard said. “I’m happy that they had an opportunity to be on this stage, in front of these people, playing in this environment. It’s character-building. It’s a great, great situation.
“We’ve had a lot of good Camarillo High School softball players that would have really loved to have been here, and they never made it this far. It’s a beautiful venue, really.”
Providing support and instruction throughout the season were Scorpion assistant coaches Andi Ramirez, Nichole Pinedo, Cambria Miranda and Jaclyn Victoria.
With the coaches’ help, Camarillo won its final 13 games.
“My assistant coaches are fantastic,” Willard said.
“They’ve all played at a high level. They understand the situation, and they’ve been good for our kids. They’ve done a great job.”
Freshmen Megan Resnik, Kellie Kooker and Chase Robledo all started the title game for ACHS.
Senior Natalie Noriega, freshman Alexis Flores, and sophomores Jessica Lewis and Shelby Jacobsen round out the Scorpion roster.
Everyone was thrilled with the end result.
“We wanted to win league,” Dederick said. “That was our main goal starting off the season.
“After we accomplished that, we went for the even bigger prize—but we still played it game by game. And, at the end, we all pulled through.”