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Carson wins City softball title on Alana Langford’s 14th-inning homer

Carson players lift the championship trophy after capturing their second straight City Open Division title on Saturday night.
Carson players lift the championship trophy after capturing their second straight City Open Division title over Granada Hills on Saturday night.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)
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All night long, Alana Langford was waiting for her pitch.

It finally came with one out in the top of the 14th inning Saturday night in the City Section Open Division softball final and the first baseman did not miss it, working the count full and launching the ball high over the left-field fence for a home run that ultimately gave Carson a 1-0 victory over Granada Hills.

Fans at Long Beach State were treated to one of the best and longest playoff games in City history, lasting four hours and two minutes.

It was the second year in a row that Langford hit a game-winning homer in the championship game, having blasted a two-run shot in the top of the eighth inning last spring against the Highlanders.

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“I could see their pitcher was getting tired and I told myself when she misses it, I gotta be on it,” Langford said. “This one means so much because I’m a senior and it’s my last time playing with my team. My dad’s our biggest fan, he watches from the outfield and he’s my target!”

Last year’s final ended 12-11, but on Saturday one run was all the Colts needed to defend their title, thanks to a Herculean effort by junior pitcher Giselle Pantoja, who allowed only one hit with 17 strikeouts and seven walks in outdueling counterpart Addison Moorman, who struck out 19 batters in a five-hit masterpiece of her own.

Carson's Alana Langford rounds third base after hitting a solo homer in the 14th inning of the City Open Division final.
Carson’s Alana Langford rounds third base after hitting a solo home run in the 14th inning of the City Section Open Division final on Saturday night.
(Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

It was another heartbreaking loss for Granada Hills (28-3), which entered as the No. 1 seed. The only blemishes on their record were a pair of one-run losses to Southern Section programs Warren and Harvard-Westlake. A year ago, the Highlanders rallied for 10 runs in the sixth inning to even the score. This time they could not manage a single run against Pantoja, who anticipated her moment in the circle in the title game.

“In the 12th inning I was pushing past my limits, but I just told my teammates, ‘You got me, I got you!’” Pantoja said. “The last inning I was so tired and they have really tough hitters. I’ve been preparing for this since last season.”

Granada Hills, seeking its first section title since 1981, had two on and two out in the bottom of the 14th when Zoe Justman flied out to Riannah Maulupe and Colts players poured from the dugout to hug their heroic pitcher.

The game’s first hit did not come until the top of the seventh when Langford doubled over the left fielder’s head with one out, but Moorman then induced back-to-back popouts on the infield.

Carson threatened in the top of the ninth when Ruby Grajeda hit a two-out single to right and Langford was hit by a pitch, but Atiana Rodriguez struck out to keep the game scoreless.

In the top of the 12th, Grajeda led off with a bloop single to left and Langford followed with a bunt single. After a strikeout and a fly out, Alyssa Villasenor was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but on a 3-2 count Sandoval struck out.

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In the bottom half of the 12th, Samantha Esparza smacked the ball through the right side and slid into first base ahead of the throw by Carson right fielder Kayleigh Allen for the Highlanders’ first hit and advanced to second on Malia Plourde’s sacrifice bunt, but after Justman struck out, Jeniece Jimenez grounded out.

Carson has won five City titles — all in the upper division.

In the preceding Division I final, top-seeded Garfield (20-5) beat No. 3 Kennedy 5-2 and in the first game of Saturday’s City triple-header No. 1 Chatsworth beat No. 2 Marquez 12-2 in five innings for the Division II title.

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