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Friday, June 1, 2012
Softball D4: Kaiser 1, Garden Grove 0 (11)


Kaiser HS softball
Kaiser won the CIF-SS Division 4 softball title after falling short in the championship game in 2011.

IRVINE --In the end, somebody had to lose.

Even though nobody deserved to.

In a title game between a couple of unseeded teams, both played like champions  Friday night at Col. Bill Barber Park in Irvine. What fans at Deanna Manning Stadium got was a pitchers' duel that had a little bit of everything.

Finally, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Jasmine Antunez's high pitch got away from catcher Jenevee Peres and Rebecca Garcia sprinted home to give Fontana Kaiser a 1-0 victory  in the Southern Section Division 4 championship.

Kaiser (23-8) was in the championship for the second year in a row, but this was its first title.

Garcia ran for No. 9 hitter Alyssa Dilay after her bouncer into the hole at shortstop gave Kaiser its fourth hit of the game. She took second on a sacrifice and third on a grounder to short. Then, on Antunez's first pitch to No. 3 hitter Jesslene Contreras, her high pitch glanced off Peres' mitt. Garcia raced home and was safe by a mile. It was scored a passed ball.

One of the longest championship games ever was finally over.

Garcia said her run home was the longest of her life. But, she said, she was "110 percent confident."

"I saw the ball die at the fence," she said. "I knew I was already there and it was our game."

Antunez, who has signed with Cal State Fullerton, pitched for Garden Grove (23-6), which last won a softball title in 1985 and was last in a championship game in 1991. Antunez made big pitches all night. She walked two and struck out eight.

Krystal Gabbard pitched for Kaiser. She gave up five hits, walked two and hit a batter.

Despite the pitchers' excellence, both teams did have opportunities to score, but big pitches and big plays extended the shutout and the game perilously close to its three-hour time limit, at which point they would have been declared co-champions. That has happened only once, in 1987 when Irvine Woodbridge and Laguna Hills shared the title.

Garden Grove had a runner reach second base in six of the first 11 innings, but could never deliver the clutch hit.

"Don't give up," Gabbard said she kept thinking as the innings progressed.

Not surprisingly, she said this was "one of the best games I've ever had. It's the best I've ever felt after any game of my life."

Kaiser's best opportunity to score came in the fifth inning when Linda Garcia singled and Crystal Cerpa boarded on a sacrifice when Garcia's pinch-runner Jessica Burrud beat the throw to second base. Marisa DeAnda sacrificed the runners to second and third, but Antunez induced a bouncer back to the circle and she struck out leadoff hitter Danielle Jeffries.

Antunez retired the next 12 batters in a row.