WALNUT (5-19-2018) -- Thanks to some perfect relief pitching from Palomar's all-state closer Allie Hughen and a huge comeback in its second game of the day on Saturday evening, No. 1 Southern California seed Palomar lived to see another day in the CCCAA State Championship softball tournament at Mt. San Antonio College.
That "other day" will be Sunday, when the Comets need to defeat tournament host Mt. SAC twice, beginning with the first game at noon, to win its sixth state community college championship.
Mt. SAC, the No. 2 seed out of Southern California and a loser to Palomar earlier in the season, stunned Palomar on Saturday afternoon 5-1, when the Comets fell behind 5-0 in the first inning and didn't score until a home run by State Player of the Year Sarah Fisher in the top of the sixth.
Coach Lacey Craft's club found itself trailing early again in the Saturday evening elimination game against defending state champion Cypress, which was battling out of the losers' bracket after eliminating the last two Northern California teams remaining in the tournament.
The Comets trailed 6-1 after four innings, then battled back to score two runs in the bottom of the fifth and pushed three more runs across the plate in the last half of the sixth to tie the game a 6 runs apiece. The tying run came home on a clutch two-out, RBI double off the bat of Alicia Garcia, who suffered through two frustrating starts on the day suffered her first defeat of the season vs. Mt. SAC after coming into the game with a 27-0 win-loss record.
Then, with two outs in the last half of the sixth, Jillian Zamora drove in the winning run on a fielder's choice after Crystal Moore-DesLauriers Kylie Pignone and Hughen had all singled earlier in the inning, the speedy Hughen by beating out a bunt.
On the previous play, Jordan Ladner hit a long fly ball to left fielder that appeared would score pinch-runner Samantha Wisespirit from third on a sacrifice fly. But Cypress left fielder Vanessa Ayala rifled a perfect strike to the plate to cut down Wisespirit.
Hughen, who threw 3 1/3 perfect relief innings against Mt. SAC earlier in the day, came back against Cypress to pitch three more perfect innings and record the win to up her win-loss record to 3-0. Her performance kept her ERA at 0.00 for 48 innings.. Hughen, the state saves leader, has not given up a run all season, earned or unearned.
The Comets outhit Cypress 16-6. Fisher (2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored), Pignone (2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored), Moore-DesLauriers (2-for-4 with an RBI, Keyona Villanueva (2-for-4 with an RBI), Hughen (2-for-4 with a run scored) and Brynn Miller (2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored) all had multiple hits against the Chargers.
Garcia and Zamora each contributed a double.
Palomar takes a 41-4 win-loss record into Sunday, while Mt. SAC is 40-7. Cypress ended the season with a 40-9 record.