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(Lead photo by Heston Quan)

EASTVALE– Following the best regular season in California high school softball and a Southern Section semifinals exit, Oaks Christian had one last chance to bring home a CIF title on Saturday. 

And the Lions pulled through, led as usual by Notre Dame commit and ace pitcher Micaela Kastor, defeating CIFSS Division 1 champion Roosevelt (Eastvale) 6-5 on the road in a nail-biter.

Oaks Christian struck right out of the gate, as Llove'a Brittingham hit a two-run single in the top of the first following a pair of errors from Roosevelt.

But the Mustangs quickly responded. For what wouldn't be the only time on Saturday, Roosevelt capitalized after Ashlee Annett reached on an error. CSU Fullerton-bound catcher Alexia Lopez stepped up against arguably the hardest thrower in California, and managed to pull an inside heater over the left field wall to tie the game up at 2-2.

After its lead was erased, Oaks wasted no time in building an even bigger one. Nani Arreola hit a one-run single, and then Lily Knox blasted a home run to give the Lions a 5-2 lead. Llove'a Brittingham followed it by scorching a ball that reached the fence so quickly that she didn't even have time to turn it into a double. She later scored on a base hit from Heaven Oliva, giving them a 6-2 lead.

Hernandez settled in admirably after the third inning, and was in control from there on out. After Oaks had done nearly all its damage by sitting on fastballs, Hernandez started throwing her changeup more frequently and earlier in counts, and was lights-out for the final four innings.

And for a Mustangs squad that had won a lot of games – including a Southern Section Division 1 championship – via late-game offensive heroics, a four-run lead was far from unworkable. Even against one of the best pitchers in the state.

Annett reached on an error again with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the rally was on. Jordan Elias walked and Kayla Lyon was hit by a pitch, loading the bases and bringing the tying run to the plate. Lopez hit a two-run single and Emily Carr hit an RBI base knock as well to cut the deficit to 6-5. However, Lopez was thrown out trying to advance to third for the second out of the inning, and Kastor ended it with a strikeout.

After another lockdown inning from Hernandez, Oaks Christian had no padding to protect its lead against the most clutch offense in Southern California. However, even though it got testy, Kastor didn't need it.

Following a prolonged at-bat with two outs, Jasmine Goins worked a walk. Then Annett hit a single, and Elias drew another walk to juice the bases. But that was as far as it got, as Kastor buckled in and fanned one of the section's top hitters in Lyon to end the season.

Despite the loss, Roosevelt finished the season as a Southern Section Division 1 champion, nationally-ranked program, and clear top-three team in the state. It was also a promising performance from Hernandez, who allowed four earned runs in seven innings against one of the most explosive offenses around, and will be a senior next season.

34-1 Oaks Christian picked up where it left off before falling 4-0 to Los Alamitos in the CIFSS semifinals, going otherwise undefeated on the season and retaking its prior spot atop SoCal and Southern Section softball. And with hardware to show for it.

Roosevelt was missing its usual starting pitcher Priscilla Llamas and speedy slapper/second baseman Kaylynn Jones, and Oaks Christian was without pitcher Emelia Davis and outfielder Liesl Osteen, all of whom had travel ball commitments.