TEMECULA -- The Edwards sisters left quite a legacy at Vista Murrieta. Now a new class of Broncos are leaving their mark on the softball program.
Freshman Selina Ta'amilo struck out 14 after a shaky start in the circle, hot-hitting Sierra Romero tripled and drove in a run and the Broncos clinched at least a share of their fourth straight Southwestern League title with a 5-2 victory over host Temecula Valley on Tuesday afternoon.
"A lot of these girls were living under the shadow of the twins," Vista Murrieta coach Dan Torres said of Taylor and Tatum Edwards, both now at Nebraska. "But they knew -- and the twins always told them -- that they were quality ballplayers. They wanted to prove to everyone that with or without the twins they were going to be successful.
"We're a successful program and we've got a solid foundation."
Especially with Ta'amilo taking over starting duties in the circle from Tatum Edwards for Vista Murrieta (18-7, 11-3).
The freshman pitcher walked or hit five of the first eight batters she faced, then settled into a groove that saw Ta'amilo (15-4) retire 11-of-12 at one point, including a stretch of six strikeouts in a row between the third and fifth innings. In all, Ta'amilo allowed two runs -- one earned -- on four hits, three walks and two hit batters in sending Temecula Valley (17-8, 6-8) to yet another league loss.
Seven weeks earlier, the Golden Bears were undefeated and sitting on the No. 1 ranking in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll. Now they are eyeing another at-large playoff berth.
"We're in the same spot we were in last year, which is certainly not the goal we set for ourself," said Temecula Valley coach Bud Kane, whose team lost in the section championship last spring. " ... It's been disappointing. We had a lot of momentum and then that 10-9 loss to Chaparral (in April) nicked our confidence quite a bit."
The Golden Bears haven't been able to quite recover and their offense hasn't been quite as potent as it was earlier in the season. On Tuesday, they went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position in Hailey Froton's return to the lineup (hamstring) and managed one run on a bases-loaded walk when Ta'amilo struggled with her command in the opening innings.
Vista Murrieta, on the other hand, managed key hits early off Katie Cleary in building a 5-1 lead after two innings. Romero tripled in a run in the two-run first and Kylie Datil and Kylee Keller each singled in runs in a three-run third, giving Ta'amilo all the support she needed to lock up a share of the Southwestern League title in the Broncos' first year without the Edwards twins.
The Broncos can clinch the outright crown Thursday with a victory or a Chaparral loss.
"(The Edwards twins) are amazing players," said Romero, whose 12 homers are within reach of Taylor Edward's school-record 15 home runs. "What they left behind is what they left behind, and now we have new things to fulfill.
"And I think we've done that."
Contact staff writer Jeff Sanders at 951-676-4315, ext. 2629.