IRVINE — Great Oak softball coach Fernando Ornelas said Miali Guachino was on a mission this season.
Finding a way to beat Guachino proved Mission: Impossible for the five teams who faced her in the playoffs.
Guachino capped one of the most dominant postseason runs by a pitcher in CIF Southern Section history, as she tossed a three-hitter with 18 strikeouts to lead the Wolfpack to an 8-0 victory over Grand Terrace in the Division 2 championship game Saturday night at Barber Park. It is the first section title in program history.
In those five playoff games, Guachino allowed only one run and 14 hits and fanned 84 batters in 39 innings.
Ornelas believes Guachino’s motivation stems from last year’s 11-inning, first-round playoff loss to Pacifica. Guachino pitched well enough to win (four-hitter, 13 strikeouts) but was on the losing end of a 1-0 decision.
“I told her to remember that feeling and run with it in the playoffs,” Ornelas said. “And she certainly did that.”
Guachino’s numbers have been eye-popping, but the most important number for this Great Oak team has been three.
“With Miali, if we can get three runs for her, we feel like we will win,” second baseman Samantha Young said.
Great Oak (20-8-1) got on the scoreboard in the second inning, when shortstop Ava Galvan singled in a run with with two outs. The Wolfpack broke things open with four more in the fourth. Galvan drove in the first run of that inning, too, and Young cleared the bases with a triple past a drawn-in outfield to extend the lead to 5-0.
“I’ve been struggling a bit in the playoffs, so it felt really good to come up with a clutch hit there,” Young said.
Guachino gave herself a few more runs to work with when she tripled in two runs in the seventh inning.
Catcher Makyia Taylor helped out her battery mate by going 3 for 3 with a sacrifice fly Saturday night. Taylor is the team’s clean-up hitter, but she sparked the offense with leadoff singles in the second and fourth innings.
“We watched film, and I had a good idea what I would be see,” Taylor said. “We prepared well for this one,”
Guachino tossed a no-hitter with 20 strikeouts in the semifinals, and she continued her dominance Saturday. She fanned at least two batters in every inning and stuck out the side four times. The three hits she allowed were infield singles. Guachino finished with a 15-4 record, a 0.57 ERA and 280 strikeouts in 135 innings.
“I really wanted to win this and give our seniors a season they they would always remember,” said Guachino, a junior who has committed to Ole Miss. “I just put my head down and worked hard all season to make sure that happen… I really wasn’t trying to strike everyone out. I just tried to hit spots, and the strikeouts came.”
Guachino’s mix of rise balls and drop curves had Grand Terrace batters guessing and chasing throughout the game. Kayleese Beach had two hits and was the only Grand Terrace starter who did not strike out Saturday.
Ornelas started the day in Arkansas, where his daughter, Karissa, is playing for the Oregon softball team in the NCAA Regionals. His first flight home was delayed by an hour, and Ornelas nearly missed his connecting flight in Dallas-Forth Worth. He arrived at LAX around 4 p.m. and made his way to Irvine for the title game.
“I put added pressure on them, knowing I was missing my daughter’s game today,” Ornelas said. “They put that on their shoulders to make it all worth it (missing the game).. I know Miali did, because she told me.”