For the Mission High School softball team, Tuesday’s game against Lincoln in the quarterfinals of the San Francisco Section-Academic Athletic Association playoffs was its de facto championship.
The Bears certainly played like everything was on the line, rallying from five runs down on two occasions to score a wild 15-14 win at Lang Field. Mission (9-11) next faces Lowell in the semifinals on Thursday, while Balboa plays Washington in the other semifinal.
“This was our championship,” Bears coach Karen Murray said. “Yes, we’re going to give our best effort against Lowell, but it’s going to be a tough matchup.”
Mission had enough trouble with Lincoln (8-13), which outhit the Bears 9-6 and committed only two errors to Mission’s nine. Somehow, someway, the Bears found a way to win. Mission trailed for most of the way before landing the decisive blow, a four-run sixth that was highlighted by a two-run double from Lucy Nguyen and a two-run single from Muna Sinada, whose hit accounted for the final score and gave Mission its first lead since the bottom of the first inning.
“I wanted to take all my feelings [of frustration] on that ball,” said Sinada, who had a team-high three RBIs. “There was a lot of emotion in this game. It was intense and we were focused, but sometimes focusing too hard is not a good thing.”
Murray was effusive in her praise for Sinada, who also made a number of strong defensive plays at third base.
“Muna has been on fire,” Murray said. “When other teams are up, I pray they hit the ball to her — that’s how tremendous of a presence she’s been at third.”
Tuesday’s result mirrored the first two games between the teams, with Mission winning by scores of 20-16 and 21-17, respectively. Like a merry go-round, players from both squads went around the bases for the duration of Tuesday’s 2½-hour contest, tiring themselves to the point of exhaustion.
“We’re a little team, and we don’t have a ton of experience, but we have a lot of fight in us,” Murray said. “We’re two evenly matched teams, and we just had more fight in us in this game.”
Lincoln coach Kevin Grayson agreed: “There’s no quit in Mission. If we were playing some other team with that lead, we’d find a way to put them away.”
Odiana Ciofalo led Lincoln with two hits and four RBIs, including a two-run home run in the first inning. Teammate Nicole Herrmann drove in three runs, and Rianna Menikheim had a pair of hits to go along with two RBIs. Mission pitcher Mandy Zeng and Lincoln counterpart Ciofalo combined to walk 28 batters. Zeng ended up throwing 136 pitches, while Ciofalo tossed 151.