PaliHi Softball Blasts into Playoffs

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

PaliHi’s softball team put together its best season in years to win the Western League and earn the No. 1 seed for the City Section Division II playoffs.

“When I first saw [the seeding], I was in shock,” said coach Tori Dario. “I was crying. I completely was not expecting that. I thought, ‘This is great. It’s going to be a good confidence boost for the girls. We’ll get to play on our home field.’ I was really, really excited.”

Since then, she continued, “I’ve started feeling the pressure. They expect you to win . . . What I’m trying to keep in the girls’ minds is that everybody we play is going to come in with nothing to lose. We’re trying to keep their heads on straight so they don’t let some lower seed come in and beat them.”

Senior pitcher Paulette Ely hurls the ball in Pali’s 10-0 playoff win over Van Nuys. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography
Senior pitcher Paulette Ely hurls the ball in Pali’s 10-0 playoff win over Van Nuys. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

A few days later on May 11, the team cruised to its first playoff victory with a 10-0 win over Van Nuys. Senior third baseman Jaylene Navarro hit both a triple and a home run to knock in four RBI, while senior pitcher Paulette Ely only allowed three hits and struck out four batters to earn the win.

The Dolphins came out hard from the start, scoring one run in the first inning and six more in the second. They cushioned their lead with another run in the fourth and two more in the fifth. Pali, which pounded out 10 hits in the game, had no errors, while Van Nuys allowed four.

During the preseason, the team struggled with both errors and hitting in six straight losses against Division I teams, but they also had little practice with rainy weather and a home field unavailable until just before the beginning of the league season. Once the team’s practices became regular, the players began to shine, and the tough competition in the preseason helped improve their overall game.

“Once we finally got into our rhythm and had consistent practices that ran smoothly, they did great,” Dario said. The Dolphins eventually faced another Division I team, Harbor Teacher, several weeks into the season and triumphed.

“They played phenomenally,” Dario said of that 4-1 victory. The pitching, hitting and fielding came together. “It was a solid well-rounded display on both sides of the ball. It was a good moment; this is what we are capable of.”

Pitching was particularly strong throughout the regular season with four high-performing pitchers: seniors Paulette Ely (1.51 ERA) and Gretel Payne (2.14 ERA) and juniors Talia Hunter (1.75 ERA) and Jasmine Pelayor Najar (3.15 ERA). The four combined for a 2.02 ERA, and they were so consistent that Dario was equally confident in each.

“My pitchers were amazing,” Dario said. “I have nothing but great things to say about all of them. In a short season, the trick is trying to figure out which one to use. They all performed really well. I never doubted a pitching decision. I could call on any of them. We got lucky. We had four great pitchers.”

Pali played Narbonne in the quarterfinals on May 15, and the semifinals are today, May 17 at 3 p.m.

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