Photo by Cristian Gutierrez

Yes, They’re No. 1 — The Chatsworth High softball team celebrates winning the City Section Open Division championship.

Winning streaks are more fragile than spiderwebs. And the longer they stand, the more fragile they can become.

It’s why what the Chatsworth High softball did to win the Los Angeles City Section 2018 Open Division playoff is quite impressive and will only grow in stature over the years.

By defeating San Pedro High 4-1 in the championship game played at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Saturday, May 19, Chatsworth ran the table — a very loooong table — en route to their second City softball championship in the past four years.

Simply put the Chancellors (22-5), after falling to Ventura Santa Paula, 2-0, in a tournament game on March 17, refused to lose the rest of the season. They won their last 18 games, including the final.

The 2018 title will bookend nicely with the Division I title the 2015 team won for Chatsworth’s first championship. 

“I don’t even know how to describe it right now. It’s so surreal,” noted Chancellors outfielder Ruby Salzman, who homered against San Pedro in Saturday’s final.

Salzman, a senior who will attend West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX  next fall, was a freshman on the 2015 team that went 30-5 overall. (The 2015 team did not have a chance to match that record because several of its regular season games were canceled and not re-scheduled.) The 2015 team was supremely confident and bursting with talent. It was also a team that constantly tested then first-year coach John Forgerson, but also willingly accepted nervous freshmen like Salzman into their circle.

Forgerson said the talent levels of the two teams were similar.

“But there was one big difference between them,” the coach said. “[The 2015 team] had been to the championship game two other times. They were especially hungry and knew that something needed to change [to win].

“[The 2018] group thought they could get to the final and wanted to be there. That [2015] group knew they could get there. That’s a huge difference in the way you approach the season. As a freshman, Ruby was in awe of that group — they were the most talented team she had played with. And she was the little kid trying to fit in. When we talked goals for this season, the crux of that conversation was ‘now you need to be one of those people you looked up to.’”

Salzman, a 2018 team captain, acquiesced. She did what she could to help gifted freshman Amber Toven, and transfers Isabella Paganini, and sisters Emily and Ava Justman feel acclimated at Chatsworth and comfortable with their new teammates. And she willingly accepted any role Forgerson would put her in this season — including batting ninth.

The Justman sisters came to Chatsworth from different schools — Ava, a sophomore and a pitcher, was at Granada Hills while Emily, a junior and a catcher, was at Oaks Christian. They wanted to attend the same school and play on the same team. Granada Hills couldn’t enroll both of them, but Chatsworth could. And both sisters were major contributors to the Chancellors success on Saturday.

Ava, throwing to Emily, was undefeated this season (13-0). She was typically rock solid against San Pedro (19-15-1) on Saturday, giving up just three hits while striking out 10 and walking one in pitching a complete game. The Pirates got their only run in the sixth, after the Chancellors had built a 4-0 lead.

“It felt amazing. I was so happy,” Ava said afterward. “Their team really battled. But I’m proud of my team; we really came through with the hits.”

Emily was needed more for her catching skills this season than her bat. Nonetheless, she smacked a pair of doubles and scored two runs on Saturday.

Her first hit came in the bottom of the first, and she scored on a passed ball to give Chatsworth a quick 1-0 lead. And Emily was in the middle of the Chancellors’ three-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth. After Salzman’s home run with one out  — a team-leading ninth homer on the season, and her seventh in Chatsworth’s last five games — Emily drove another line drive down the left field line, again for two bases.

Toven, who was on first with the second of her two hits, went to third base and would score on a sacrifice fly by Paganini. Emily came home with Chatsworth’s final run moments later on a two-out double by Jasmine Wehn.

San Pedro starter Briana Velazquez, a sophomore who struck out six and walked three while giving up eight hits in six innings, pitched credibly and on a different day might have enjoyed a better fate. She was one of several underclassmen who shined in the four championship games played here on Saturday, suggesting that City softball in the Valley could be in a very good place the next several years — depending, of course, how often the Valley (and other) sporting landscapes are altered by player transfers. The Pirates are a young team, and expect to contend the next several seasons.

So does Chatsworth, which only had five seniors on this year’s team.

Remember, that winning streak isn’t over yet.

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