Senior Mazzi Tamaiko has been through it all in her four years as the starting center fielder for the La Jolla High softball team.
The Vikings won just seven games total during her freshman and sophomore seasons.
So it should come as no surprise that she remained upbeat after La Jolla dropped its final regular-season home outing — Tamaiko was honored before and after the contest as the team’s lone senior — on Friday, May 13. The 8-3 loss to Western League foe University City, a playoff-bound Division III squad, will have no bearing on the Vikings (14-12, 5-7) as they open the D-IV playoffs today (Thursday, May 19).
“We just have to come out harder. We just have to hit a little better,” Tamaiko told the La Jolla Light following a short ceremony where coach Anthony Sarain said some kind words to the crowd about his longtime stalwart.
La Jolla earned the No. 3 seed in the CIF San Diego Section Championships and will open in the friendly confines of Mark Wallner Field. It will face the winner of a play-in game between Mission Vista and Morse.
“We are looking really solid, we haven’t lost to a Division IV team yet this season,” said Sarain, who is in his seventh year at the helm. “I’m felling pretty good about our chances in the playoffs.”
On Friday, the Vikings didn’t show off their full potential against the potent lineup of University City. But with a memorable sign made by her teammates hanging on a nearby fence, Tamaiko was part of a rally that gave her squad the early lead.
Freshman leadoff hitter Kyra Ferenczy opened the bottom of the first with a single off of Centurion starting pitcher Natalie Minteer.
Next up was Tamaiko, who ripped a single to left, moving Ferenczy into scoring position at second base. One batter later, junior Linda Brown’s single plated Ferenczy and the hosts were up 1-0.
University City had an answer, however, as catcher Sabrina Schnaubelt’s double started a two-run rally. Schnaubelt had a huge game, finishing 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs. The Centurions (15-9, 8-4) did most of the rest of their damage in a five-run third inning that featured back-to-back home runs by Schnaubelt and Minteer.
But with the postseason on the horizon, the loss wasn’t enough to spoil the celebration of Tamaiko’s four-year career. “It’s been really fun playing, I had a really good time,” said the soft-spoken senior who finished the regular season with a .333 batting average after notching two hits and a walk in her three plate appearances Friday. “It’s been a great experience because we are like a family. This is probably the best season we’ve had in a really long time. We’ve got a lot of good players and I think they are going to well in the next couple of years too.”
Though Tamaiko’s average is impressive, the No. 2 hitter is just part of a deep La Jolla lineup. Brown enters the playoffs at .518, with team-highs in home runs (seven) and RBIs (32), while Ferenczy’s two hits Friday put her at .473 for the season. Also the team’s pitcher, Ferenczy leads the Vikings with 10 doubles and has slugged three home runs.
Another young stud is sophomore shortstop Josie Sinkeldam, who is batting .439 with 27 RBIs. Junior Ava Verbrugghen knocked in La Jolla’s final run Friday.
“Our hitting has been really good,” Sarain said. “Our hitters are all very strong, we are scoring a lot of runs. It’s all about hitting for us, scoring runs. Our defense and pitching will keep us in the game. Our defense has been the best we’ve had in the program so far and our pitching has been solid.”
Speaking of that fielding, third baseman Brown, second baseman Vanessa Shaffer and left fielder Verbrugghen each made sparkling defense plays in the contest. In addition, Tamaiko was steady in center.
“She’s doing a great job in center field, which is one of those really tough positions. You have to really be on top of the ball,” Sarain said. “Mazzi has been through tough times and here through good times.
“She is one of our captains and she has done a really good job of setting the tone by example. She comes here, works hard and does a good job of putting on a smile when she needs to. I’ve known her, been coaching her off and on, since she was 8 years old. She’s a great kid.”
Today’s playoff opener is set for 3:30 p.m.