MURRIETA ---- Vista Murrieta usually relies on long balls coming off the bat of Sierra Romero, the state's home runs leader this year.
But on Thursday, it was Phalen Cochran who stole the spotlight.
The junior blasted a 200 foot-plus bomb to deep center field in the fourth inning to lead Vista Murrieta to a 3-0 victory over Anaheim Esperanza in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.
"It was just a great game all the way around today," Vista Murrieta coach Dan Torres said. "Esperanza's starting pitcher (Hayley Copeland) was throwing that inside curveball well today, but Cochran did a great job of making the adjustment. She got the top of that ball and just drove it."
The home run, Cochran's fourth of the season, came after she fell behind 0-2 in the count.
"I knew that striking out wasn't an option," Cochran said. "I wanted to make sure that I watched that pitch. It was one of the best feelings I have ever had, probably the biggest hit of my high school career."
Not to be completely overshadowed, Romero secured the win in the fifth with a two-out, two-run scoring double to center.
Esperanza might have sealed its fate by even choosing to pitch to Romero in the situation, as it had two outs and first base open.
"I was surprised," Torres said. "That's the choice they made, and it hurt them. I thought she might go yard, but I'll take a double any day of the week."
Romero felt differently.
"Honestly, I expected them to come after me," Romero said. "I had struck out in the previous at-bat, and I thought they would just come and try to get me again with the same pitches. My goal was just to put the ball in play."
Romero finished 2-for-2 in her three plate appearances, while sister Sydney Romero also went 2-for-2 with a double.
The Broncos' win set up a huge Southwestern League-Big XII League semifinal Tuesday, as Vista Murrieta will face top-seeded Norco, which defeated Foothill in its quarterfinal Thursday.
Vista Murrieta defeated Norco in the first round of the playoffs last season, but was defeated by the Cougars earlier this season.
"They took it to us," Torres said. "It left a sour taste in our mouth. We need to get that back. Norco is a great team, and if we could get a win over them it would really solidify us. It's going to take a game where we make absolutely no mistakes, but I believe that we are capable of beating them."
Norco is ranked No. 2 in the state.
Vista Murrieta (23-4) starting pitcher Selina Ta'amilo (18-3) earned the win, allowing only two hits over seven shutout innings while striking out seven.