By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
PASADENA.–Suppose they gave a no-hitter and no one noticed?
Well, plenty came to see it, but Thursday brought a truly odd situation in which a no-no was indeed thrown, but the achievement was relegated to an afterthought.
The largest crowd for a Westridge softball game in recent memory was treated to a classic battle, in the CIF Southern Section Div. 7 quarterfinals.
The game featured two of the area’s premier pitchers, one a senior with a sparking resume, the other a frosh who has made softball the school’s hottest ticket.
By virtue of a few inches, Westridge edged visiting Whitney, 2-1, to advance to Tuesday’s semifinal against Mayfield, whose campus is just down the block. The Cubs hammered the Academy of Academic Excellence, 21-8.
Whitney (15-9) had senior Taylor Genera in the circle, entering the game with more than 210 strikeouts on the season.
The home team Tigers (12-7) started Hailey Yoshida, who has become the talk of the Prep League, with her devastating rise ball and a perfect game thrown on April 11.
The shoes Yoshida wore for her perfecto were back on her feet Thursday, looking tattered, torn, and with one broken shoelace.
She has a brand new pair in her bag, but Westridge head coach Karen Hanselman, perhaps giving in to a small measure of superstition, doesn’t want to see them.
“I insisted she finish the season with these,” Hanselman said, pointing to a toe poking out of Yoshida’s left shoe.
Regardless of footwear, both pitchers were in top form, neither allowing any sort of rally to gain traction. Yoshida struck out 13 batters and walked five, while Genera finished with seven Ks.
Genera allowed only three hits –a solid performance worthy of a win on most days. This however, was hardly most days.
In fact, there was but one ball that reached the outfield the entire game.
Both teams managed to get two runners aboard in the third inning. An error was followed by an intentional walk to Genera, who was batting third in the lineup. She was given a free pass in each of her at-bats, much to the consternation of the Whitney fans in attendance.
Yoshida pitch out of the jam, but was not pleased at having to deal with the threat.
If she was miffed by the top of the third, the bottom made her downright angry.
A hit and a walk in the bottom of the third put two runners aboard for Westridge, and with one out, Yoshida had a golden opportunity to break the scoreless tie, in a game that saw both pitchers dealing their best stuff.
Yoshida struck out on four pitches – three of them changeups – and walked back to the dugout furious.
There were no radar guns at the diamond to measure pitch speed, but Yoshida’s first pitch of the top of the fourth was as hard as she threw all game, a blistering fastball.
Pitching around a two-out error, she ended up striking out the side.
“I was mad, very mad, after I struck out,” Yoshida admitted after the game. “I think that helped me regain focus. That’s what I was telling myself.”
After a scoreless fifth, Genera – Whitney’s best hitter – led off the top of the sixth, and was again given an intentional walk. Leadoff walks have a pesky habit of coming around to score, and on this occasion, Genera made the opposing team pay.
A sacrifice bunt toward third gave Genera the opportunity to advance, but she had no intention of stopping at second base. Running full steam, she charged toward third, forcing the Tigers to make the play for the out.
The throw from first sailed over the head of third baseman Julia Valenzuela, but caromed to the hands of left fielder Sophia Haydon-Kahn, who bobbled the ball while Genera crossed the plate with an unearned run to make the score 1-0.
Yoshida has herself proven to be potent with the bat, and the bottom of the sixth brought a chance at redemption.
After Valenzuela drew a leadoff walk, Yoshida swung at all six pitches in her at-bat, fouling off all of them – except the last one.
Yoshida was looking for something fast, and got the pitch she wanted, turning on it and rifling a grounder inside third, just out of reach of the lunging third baseman.
As the ball rolled unmolested almost into the left-field corner, Valenzuela came around to score the tying run and Yoshida motored into third with a stand up triple.
“I wasn’t up there to walk. I wanted to hit,” she said later.
Olivia Bulow’s slow roller toward first took enough time for Yoshida to scamper home with the eventual winning run.
Taking the mound with the lead in the top of the final inning, Yoshida had a relaxed focus, getting the first batter to ground out to the right side.
She struck out the next two batters and Westridge had booked its spot in the semis.
Lost in the drama of the game was the fact – likely unknown to Yoshida herself – that the Tigers’ hurler had not allowed a hit. At least one Whitney runner reached base on a botched play, but scorekeepers from both teams ruled it an error.
As for putting Genera on base three times, even as a leadoff hitter, the always-competitive Yoshida said she wasn’t bothered by the strategy.
“I didn’t mind walking her to start the inning,” Yoshida said about the pass to Genera, whom she knows from playing club softball. “We know Taylor’s a good hitter, and we didn’t want her to score.
“It was a risky move, I know, but sometimes that works out. Today it did.”
Westridge will be the visiting team against Mayfield on Tuesday, in the Div. 7 semifinals. The game is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. at Brookside Park in Pasadena.