Bakersfield, CA - The Mt. San Antonio College Softball program became the second team in the 2019 CCCAA State Softball Championships to earn a spot in the state semi-finals on Saturday afternoon. The Mounties (SoCal #1) walked-off Palomar College (SoCal #3) in the bottom of the eighth inning via a two-run Ciara Granado home run to left-center.
Mt. SAC got exactly the start they wanted on the day when sophomore Candace Haliburton led the bottom of the first off with a solo blast to center. That was the last threat for a few innings though, as Palomar evened up the game on a single to center by Comet sophomore Allie Hughen in the top of the third.
The Mounties would briefly move back in front in the bottom of the fifth when they took advantage of a throwing error by the Comets on a fly out to right that allowed, sophomore Caitlyn Felina to score from second base, after she tagged up on the fly out.
That lead would last until the top of the seventh, when with two outs, freshman Kendall Kates hit a fister just over the head of the pitcher and with such awkward spin that it was tough for the Mountie second baseman to handle. With runners on first and second, Mt. SAC's Gabby Estrada would handle the ball deftly but by the time she tried to tag out the runner headed to second she missed, and when she turned to throw the ball to first, the throw wasn't in time. All the while, Palomar speedster sophomore Kylie Pignone had scored from second, knotting the game at two runs each.
Mt. SAC wouldn't get a good chance in the bottom of the seventh, but neither would Palomar in the top of the eighth. Things seemed destined for a potential ninth inning, until Mt. SAC freshman Jessika Trujillo hit a one-out single to open things up. A few pitches later, Granado's crushed a pitch of the left-center field fence and the Mounties had advanced with a 4-2 win.
Reigning 3CFCA State Pitcher of the Year and Mountie sophomore Briana Wheeler (24-1) proved every bit her worth in the game, pitching a complete game. She scattered nine hits, two walks, and two runs over her eight innings worth of work. She also struck out nine batters in the process. At the plate, Granado was the obvious highlight going 3-for-4 with the run and the two RBIs.
For Palomar, Hughen, Pignone, and sophomore Sarah Fisher all finished with two hits. Fisher in particular, was 2-for-2 and intentionally walked twice. Hughen (13-2) would get tagged with the loss, giving up six hits, four runs (three earned), and three walks, while striking out seven Mountie hitters.
With the win, Mt. SAC (42-5) advances to the semi-finals and will face NorCal #1 College of San Mateo tomorrow afternoon with a berth in the State Championship Game on the line. First pitch is set for 12:00 PM at Bakersfield College. For Palomar (38-6) they now drop into the elimination round and must face Fullerton College at approximately 2:30 PM in an elimination game.