LANCASTER — The Lancaster softball team played its second consecutive extra inning game to open the playoffs and for the second-consecutive game the Eagles got clutch hits in the late innings.
Lancaster freshman Rhi Rubio hit a walk-off RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning to give the Eagles a 3-2 victory over Twentynine Palms in a CIF-Southern Section Division 6 second-round game on Saturday at Lancaster High School.
The Eagles (12-6) will face the winner of Saturday’s Sacred Heart Los Angeles/St. Bonaventure second-round game in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
“I was nervous, but I had to do it for my team,” Rubio said. “We’re never it past the second round, so I really wanted to do it. That was my goal. It feels amazing. I’m so glad I could do it.”
The game was tied at 2-2 since the third inning, when sophomore Jada Storey led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a single to left.
With two outs, Rubio stepped to the plate.
“Rhi, we’ve been hitting for her pretty much all season, because she’s our No. 1 pitcher, so I don’t want her risking an injury,” Lancaster coach Kendel Zinn said. “I decided today with my coach to put Rhi in to hit and she did her job, not only offensively, but defensively she’s amazing. She did great.”
Rubio singled up the middle and Storey easily beat the throw home.
“Exciting, but stressful. It was a very stressful game,” Storey said. “My coaches helped me calm myself down after having multiple strikeouts. They gave me the confidence to keep going and make sure my hit was in.
“It’s really good to win and help my teammates out. I was sprinting. I was just going. I was trying to do whatever I could to get that scoring run.”
First the Lancaster players swarmed Storey in celebration before going out to second base, where Rubio had stopped after her game winning, walk-off hit.
Rubio, hitting in the No. 9 spot, was 1-for-3 entering the 10th inning, having helped a two-run rally in the third.
Storey was 0-for-3 batting sixth entering the 10th.
“I told Jada, she’s done it in a previous game, where she has gotten out in every at bat,” Zinn said. “She came in and got a single in that game. I told her you can do it. You can just do it. You know you can and she did. She hit that single.”
Twentynine Palms (13-3) had taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, when sophomore Gabrielle Wunderlee hit a two-run single, the third consecutive hit for the Wildcats.
The Eagles answered in the bottom half of the third, when Rubio hit an infield single with two outs.
Lancaster junior Jayda Williams reached on an error and junior Kylie Zinn followed with a two-run triple to centerfield to tie the game at 2-2.
Both teams struggled to find their offense for the next several innings.
Twentynine Palms senior pitcher Tori Emhoff retired the next 15 consecutive batters after Zinn’s game-tying triple.
Rubio also held the Wildcats in check.
“As a pitcher, I know my team behind me can field, so my goal is kind of if they are going to hit, make it so they can not hit home runs,” Rubio said. “Just fieldable balls so my team can back me up on it.”
Rubio gave up two runs on eight hits, one walk, on hit batter in 10 innings, striking out four.
“Our CIF games have been pretty nerve racking the last two that we’ve played,” Zinn said. “We had to keep our mentality up. We had to keep our mental game strong. Our hitters were lacking a little bit all game. We also told them, if you’re not doing you’re job in the batter’s box, do out here in the field and they played a solid defense. Making all these crazy catches. It was fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better defense.”
Lancaster committed one error, in the first inning, while Twentynine Palms had two errors.
Lancaster played eight innings in a 6-3 win at Vasquez in the first round.
The Eagles had advanced to the second round the previous two postseasons.
Emhoff struck out 11 batters in 9.2 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and one walk.