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Brooke Perez tosses a shutout to guide Esperanza to crucial league win over Canyon

Perez threw her second straight complete game shutout, and Taylor Shumaker had three extra-base hits for the Aztecs.

ANAHEIM HILLS– They say softball is a game of inches.

It certainly was on Thursday in a potential Crestview League title match that featured some decisive bang-bang plays. 

But thanks primarily to the dominant pitching of UC Riverside commit Brooke Perez, Esperanza did not leave Canyon much room for error in grabbing a 2-0 road victory.

Thursday saw Perez throw her second straight complete game shutout to pick up a monumental win in one of the nation's toughest softball leagues. After throwing a three-hitter against Villa Park on Tuesday, she outdueled Arizona State commit Kylee Magee to put an end to Canyon's 10-game winning streak and knock off a league rival ranked by some within the top 10 in the country. 

Perez got better and better as the game went along, and earned five of her seven strikeouts in the last three innings. Additionally, the Aztecs' defense was stellar behind Perez, allowing her to do what she does best – pounding the bottom of the strike zone relentlessly with gas.

The Comanches' best opportunity to score came right out of the gate. After they held Esperanza scoreless in the opening frame, Annabella Fraser started the bottom of the first inning with a single. A well-executed sacrifice bunt by Sam Gresham turned into a double on one of Perez' only errant throws of the night trying to get her at first. With Comanches on second and third before Esperanza's defense had even registered an out on the night, a shutout seemed highly unlikely for Perez and co. But they were not to be denied. 

After Perez struck out the next batter, Esperanza nabbed Fraser at home trying to score on a swinging bunt or chopper to the left side. The ruling was controversial as the call was as close as it gets. When the dust cleared, there were still runners at the corners but there were also two outs and no harm done on the scoreboard. Perez forced soft contact and let her defense do the rest – which would be a theme for the rest of the night – and ended the inning on a pop-out to the catcher.

Magee, who entered the game 18-3 with an ERA of 0.79 and 242 strikeouts in 114 innings, was outstanding as well. Like Perez, she threw smoke and established the bottom of the strike zone early in counts, but the future Sun Devil often went to the high cheese or changeup to put hitters away. Magee tossed a complete game with only two runs allowed and 10 K's in her own right.

However, Taylor Shumaker had her number. After leading off the game with a double and getting stranded, Shumaker hit a triple in the fifth and was quickly driven in on a Sharyn Duncan single. (Shumaker again hit a double in the seventh inning and did not score.)

Esperanza tacked on an insurance run in the sixth on another bizarre sequence involving some particularly close plays. Sabrina Seaton started the inning by drawing a walk, and beat the throw by an eyelash when Canyon opted to throw to second on a bunt by Isabella Altamirano. After Magee got the next two Aztecs out, Mia Sanchez hit what would've been a routine ground ball to the second baseman – if not for the runner at first passing in front of her at the perfect split second to obstruct her view.

As a result, the ball got past the second baseman and through to the outfield, and Seaton scored to give Esperanza a 2-0 lead. Despite a protest by the Comanches, the runner was not called for interference as she didn't appear to alter her running path in response to the grounder or intentionally disrupt the fielder. Again... they call it a game of inches.

Canyon came up a hair short yet again in the bottom of the sixth when Esperanza turned a double-play with a particularly close call at first. Perez took the Aztecs home in the bottom of the seventh, finishing the game with a K to strand two runners on base.

With the win, Esperanza moved to 15-9 and 3-0 in league play, and will control its own fate heading into the second go-around of Crestview League play. While the loss was likely deflating for the Comanches, they can still clinch at least a tie atop the league if they win out in conference play. And even if they don't, they'll still enter the Southern Section playoffs as a major favorite to win Division 3.

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Kylee Magee Anaheim Canyon softball
Kylee Magee softball Anaheim Canyon
Anaheim Canyon Comanches softball 3
Esperanza Aztecs softball
Brooke Perez Esperanza softball
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Esperanza Aztecs softball 2
Anaheim Canyon Comanches softball 2
Anaheim Canyon Comanches softball
Anaheim Canyon softball