One run turned out to be all that was needed, as Heritage freshman Aliciana Ramirez’s first-inning triple off Imholz plated the lone run of the game.
It was the second consecutive nail-biting game for the Heritage faithful, following the Patriots’ 1-0 victory over College Park on Wednesday. It was Ramirez’s pinch-hit double off the fence in the bottom of the seventh that sent the fans home happy in that contest, and the freshman wasted no time supplying heroics against Antioch Saturday.
Both Rodrigues and Imholz had thrown shutouts in their first-round victories, the latter tossing nine innings of shutout ball in the Panthers’ 1-0 win over Washington, and they lived up to their billing in a matchup of league rivals and Division I fourth and fifth seeds.
Rodrigues and battery mate Malia Rivers continued where they left off against College Park with flawless accuracy and solid defense out in the field and behind the plate. Rodrigues got Antioch to put the ball on the ground repeatedly, and the Patriots turned in their second consecutive solid game defensively, reversing a trend earlier in the season. The Panthers had taken the first two meetings of the season against Heritage, but the difference lately, according to Coach Ron Rivers, has been team defense.
“Both Antioch and Freedom beat us earlier this year by capitalizing on our errors,” said Rivers. “We’ve been playing a lot better defensively now. The girls are jelling at the right time, and they want to keep playing.”
Rodrigues and the Patriot defense allowed just one Panther to reach second base in the contest, making Ramirez’s early RBI stand up as the game-winner. Ramirez, who led the BVAL in home runs during the regular season with three, has made up for missed time with her performances in the Patriots’ playoff run. After suffering an injury to a finger against Liberty, she was held out of action for much of the opening playoff game against College Park. But Rivers finally decided it was time for her return, and the Patriots are now in the semifinals as a result.
The quarterfinal triumph set up an all-BVAL semifinal between Heritage and regular-season champion Freedom, the North Coast Section’s dominant program over the last decade. The Falcons took two out of three from the Patriots during the regular season, but as Coach Rivers pointed out, “We’ve cleaned up our defense and we’re excited about our next game.”
Wednesday’s game was played at Freedom High School. Results were unavailable by press time.