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IRVINE — The Orange County Softball Coaches Senior All-Star Game returned Wednesday with a tantalizing chance for players to alter the endings to their high school careers.
Trabuco Hills’ Jazzy Longo and Aliso Niguel’s Alex Caouette took advantage of the opportunity, and helped the South rally for an 8-7 victory at Deanna Manning Stadium.
The Northern Colorado-bound Longo tied the score in the eighth inning with a double to left while the Western Michigan-bound Caouette navigated the final three innings to earn the victory in the circle.
Longo found a bit of redemption after being part of a Mustangs team that missed the CIF-SS playoffs despite being ranked No. 1 in Division 5. Trabuco Hills didn’t earn an automatic playoff spot from the four-team Sea View League and there was no room in the bracket for at-large entries.
But Longo found another way to celebrate on the dirt at Bill Barber Park courtesy of the all-star game.
“It was a great opportunity,” the outfielder said. “It feels good (to win) as it’s closing because this is my last two days of school, too. So last time wearing the uniform.”
The Mustangs’ absence in Division 5 became a talking point during the postseason. The Sea View League’s third-place team behind El Toro and Capistrano Valley finished No. 1 in the final Division 5 poll.
“It was bittersweet because it feels like we just barely fell short,” Longo said. “We didn’t place high enough in league. It was our goal to make it to CIF … I feel we would have made it (to the finals).”
Longo tied the score 5-5 by belting a double over the left fielder with one out in the eighth. Two batters later, Beckman’s Jasmyn Yessian — a North Dakota State commit — launched a two-run triple to center to give the South its first lead at 7-5.
Yessian drive in Longo and Tesoro’s Kassidy Moore, who had doubled.
The South scored one more run in the top of the eighth to give Caouette an 8-5 lead.
The North trimmed its deficit to 8-7 on a two-run single by Troy shortstop Sophia Rylaarsdam in the bottom of the eighth.
But in the ninth, Caouette quickly retired the side in order. She induced groundouts to Aliso Niguel second baseman Casey Antrasian and Tesoro shortstop Cadence Gilliland before sealing the victory with a strikeout.
“I like going out there with a tight game,” Caouette said. “I like having that power to win the game so I was going out there with confidence and confidence in my defense.”
Caouette helped Aliso Niguel capture the South Coast League title and secure the No. 2 seed in Division 3. The Wolverines’ postseason run was cut short by a 2-1 loss to El Toro in the quarterfinals.
“It was tough for all us,” Caouette said of the loss. “I know Aliso has a big future. I know they will bounce back from that but this definitely was a good ending to my high school career.”
Caouette knows about being resilient. Her father Alan was surprisingly fired as Aliso Niguel’s coach in 2021 after an 11-year tenure that included playoff appearances each season, four league titles and a coaching award.
Caouette remained at Aliso Niguel with her friends.
“I’m honestly really glad I did,” she said. “Not only did I get to play with my friends, I also have a great connection with Coach (Randie) Baldwin.”
Caouette’s No. 1 mentor in softball remains her father. He coached her in travel ball starting at the 10-and-under level with the California Cruisers.
“I would definitely not be where I’m going today without him,” she said.
Rylaarsdam had a two-run double in the third to help the North open a 4-0 lead.
The South inserted Los Alamitos ace Berkley Vance in the fourth and the Seattle-bound senior fired three scoreless innings to set the stage for the comeback.
Capistrano Valley’s Siena Stickney stabbed a liner at second base to help Vance close out the sixth.