BAKERSFIELD - Bailey O'Dell caught Ilyssa Espirito's line drive to short with two hands and held on for extra emphasis.
Who could blame her for making sure of the final out after what transpired in the bottom of the seventh inning of fourth-seeded Buchanan High's 5-3 victory over No. 2 Stockdale for the Central Section Division I softball championship.
Natalie Rendon seemingly put the finishing touches on a five-hit shutout moments earlier as she fired a pitch past Lauren Kotz with runners at first and second for the final out.
Bears catcher Rushael Lawley secured the ball in her glove, flipped it into the air with her right hand as she has done hundreds of times before at the end of an inning, and rushed to join her celebrating teammates.
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Only the plate umpire ruled it was a dropped third strike, so while the Bears mobbed one another inside the pitching circle, Kristen Lee and Shelbe Pennel were rounding the bases and breaking up the shutout.
By the time the Bears realized what was going on, Kotz was on third base with the score 5-2.
"The ump called her out, and I was celebrating," said Lawley, who is headed to North Dakota State on scholarship. "If I would have known, I would have tagged her.
"All I knew is we were going to win it still. We just had to calm down and do it."
Colleen Reed singled up the middle to make it 5-3, but Rendon got the final out on Espirito's liner. Then the celebration of the Bears' fourth section title picked up where it left off.
"I couldn't tell you if the ball hit the ground or not," Buchanan coach Dean Gregory said. "All I wanted to do was watch the kids celebrate and the next thing I know they are running around the bases.
"That's got to be the first time anyone has won the Valley championship twice in one game. I'm proud of the way they hung in there after that."
The Bears (26-7-1) broke up a pitchers' duel between Rendon and Stockdale's Justine Vela with two runs in the top of the fourth as Taylor Wright sent a shot that hit off the left-field fence to score Jenna Arkelian, with O'Dell also coming around to score on an error on the play.
"I've been in a slump all year long," Wright said. "I guess I picked a good time to snap out of it. It was a perfect pitch, right where I wanted it. I couldn't have picked a better one myself."
Buchanan made it 5-0 in the fifth as Diane Runge scored on an error, and Michelle Murphy followed with a two-run double. Murphy's double was one of nine hits the Bears had against Vela, who had no-hit Clovis West and four-hit Central to help Stockdale (21-8) advance.
"It was really funny because Gregory was like, 'Get a line drive,' and the next pitch was perfect," said Murphy, one of four seniors who were part of Buchanan's 24-inning loss to Liberty for the 2006 section title. "I had been wanting that all day. This is perfect, just how we wanted to end it."