The Lions Advance to Play Academy League Champion Calvary Chapel in Round 1
By Warren Eastman
Linfield Christian defeated Rialto 7-6 Tuesday in a hard fought CIF-SS Division 5 Playoff Wild Card play-in game. Linfield catcher Payton Howie went three for four with a double and a triple and 4 runs batted in as Linfield had thirteen hits. Alex Perez was three for four with a double and a run batted in, while Ariel Artiga was two for four with a double and a critical run batted in.
Rialto’s Madeline Gonzalez was two for three with a double and 3 runs batted in. Trinity Suarez was two for two with a double and a run batted in.
Linfield attacked early, putting up four runs in the top of the first inning. JaeCe Simon led off with a walk. Kiki McGrath reached on an infield error, moving Simon to second. Jenna Perez loaded the bases with a ground ball single through the right side.
Rialto then changed pitchers, bringing in their ace, Savannah Magana. Alex Perez followed with a ground ball single to the right of second base, bringing home Simon. Howie then unloaded the bases with a line drive triple to deep right centerfield. Howie was thrown out at home on a close play to deny her the inside the park home run.
Rialto got on the board with an unearned run in the second inning. With one out, Victoria Quintero reached on an infield error and moved to second on Alissa Rodriguez’s sacrifice bunt. Trinity Suarez ground single through the left side brought Quintero home.
Linfield came right back with two more runs in the top the third. Alex Perez led off with a ground ball single through the right side. Howie’s line drive double to right center brought in Alex Perez all the way from first. Sarah Newman’s line drive double that landed on the left field foul line and rolled to the corner scored Howie.
Down 6-1, Rialto rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Rodriguez was hit by pitch to lead off. Suarez hit an infield single and both runners moved up a base on a throwing error. Vivian Ramos then popped up a bunt that perfectly fell between the pitcher, the catcher, and the first baseman, with Alex Perez unable to make the diving catch. The runners held on the play.
Cassandra Solis walked on an eight pitch at bat to bring home Rodriguez. Magana to score and hit into a fielder’s choice, first base to home, to force out Suarez for the first out. Gonzalez then hit a deep fly ball double just inside the right field line to drive in Ramos and Solis. A controversial play then ensued. Brianna Rollins swung and missed a low third strike. Linfield catcher Howie thought she had cleanly caught the ball, but the umpire called it in the dirt.
Howie and Rollins both hesitated, then Rollins took off for first. Howie threw to first base but the first baseman Artiga had moved in toward the plate in anticipation of subsequent play by the base runners. Artiga tagged Rollins but the ball was knocked out of her glove and rolled away, allowing Magana to score and Gonzalez to third. Sereya Diaz bunted to the pitcher who held the runner at third and threw to first for the second out. Quintero grounded out to the pitcher to finally end the inning with the score 6-5 Linfield.
Neither team threatened in the sixth. Linfield got a critical insurance run in the top of the seventh. Alex Perez led off with a line drive double to right centerfield. Howie hit a Texas League single to short centerfield but Alex Perez had to hold up at second in case of a catch. One out later, Artiga lined a single into right centerfield that scored Alex Perez.
Linfield needed the insurance run as Rialto again rallied in the bottom of the seventh. Magana led off with a fly ball triple to deep right field that just eluded a diving catch attempt by Nayana Jenkins and came home on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Gonzalez. After a strikeout and a hit by pitch, Rollins struck out looking to end the game.
Linfield’s record improves to 19-6 on the season. They travel to play Academy League champion Calvary Chapel – Downey on Thursday in Division 5 First Round Playoff action.