The Orange Lutheran softball team began this season with plenty to prove. The Lancers had shown they could build a snazzy regular-season record and win Trinity League titles, but advancing deep into the playoffs had become a towering obstacle.
Despite some talent-laden rosters over the years, and many more wins than losses in league play, Orange Lutheran hadn’t advanced past the quarterfinals since 2002, when it competed at the much less competitive CIF-SS Division 4 level.
With likely its strongest team in school history this spring, the league champion Lancers finally broke that spell May 26, when they defeated visiting Lakewood in a Division I quarterfinal. Even that win didn’t come easy, as Orange Lutheran took a 9-1 lead into the sixth inning, gave up a two-run homer and then watched Lakewood bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh before the Lancers held on for the 9-5 victory.
“Division I is hard,” says Orange Lutheran coach Steve Miklos, who has been heading the program since 1998. “Everybody that’s left is good. Their pitchers are good, they all have good hitters, so it’s just who plays the best that day.”
Prior to 2011, the Lancers were a middle of the pack team in the Trinity League and were just happy to make the playoffs.
But in 2011, they went 8-0 in league play to win the championship and were building momentum after a 3-1 opening-round playoff win against Corona. Orange Lutheran then went extra innings in its second-round game against Canyon, but two errors on the same play by senior shortstop Brittany Boesel—who had only five errors all season—scored the game-winning run for Canyon.
The Lancers won league again the following season, but were shut out by Edison, 6-0, in the quarterfinals. Three years ago, Orange Lutheran knocked off M.L. King of Riverside in the second round, but was clobbered on its home field by Pacifica, 13-1, in the quarterfinals.
The following season, Orange Lutheran met Vista Murrieta in the second round after Vista Murrieta had upset third-seeded Esperanza, but couldn’t hold a three-run lead in the fifth inning and lost on a three-run walk-off homer in extra innings. The Lancers won 25 more games last season, but couldn’t get past Los Alamitos in the second round.
“I’ve always says, to win in the playoffs, you have to get some breaks,” Miklos says. “You have to play well, but you need some breaks and you have to be a little bit lucky. The best team doesn’t always win.”
That’s why Miklos was far from relaxed when his team took an eight-run lead into the sixth inning in the quarterfinal against Lakewood last month. He knew anything could happen.
Sure enough, the Lancers needed only one out to secure the victory when a routine grounder to shortstop took a bad hop and caromed off the arm of Mackenzie Boesel, the younger sister of Brittany.
Up came the tying run for Lakewood—one of its power hitters—but pitcher Maddy Dwyer bore down and induced a fly out to end the game.
“We know in the playoffs, we’re going to have to deal with pressure and we dealt with it,” Mackenzie Boesel says. “We knew we just needed to get outs and that’s what we did.”
And over in the dugout, Miklos was letting out a big sigh of relief.