Softball Continues Winning Ways in Super Regionals

Racqual Espinoza pitched over six innings for the Mounties against Cerritos on Friday, May 12, 2017. Alex Herrera/SAConScene

Racqual Espinoza pitched over six innings for the Mounties against Cerritos on Friday, May 12, 2017. Alex Herrera/SAConScene

The first game of the softball Southern California Super Regionals for Mt. SAC was a display of determination by the No. 2 seed Mounties in a 6-1 victory over Cerritos.

The game took place Friday afternoon at Mt. SAC on a sunny, yet brisk day, and got off to a modest start with both teams measuring each other out and establishing the rhythm of the game.

Mt. SAC came in as the favorites, having amassed a 37-3 record and potent offense throughout the season.

They also saw exquisite pitching performances throughout the year, which is what Racqual Espinoza was looking to provide for her team.

Early on – through two innings – Cerritos struggled to make contact against Espinoza. It wasn’t until the top of the third inning that she gave up a hit, subsequently getting out of the inning with a strikeout and pop up.

Mt. SAC landed the first punch in the bottom of the third inning. Alyssa Rasso began the rally with a lead-off single, followed by Espinoza aiding her own cause. She crushed a ball into center field, but Cerritos played it well and held Rasso at second base.

With one out, Coach Rubilena Rojas called for a bunt, and Carissa Felix obliged – moving Rasso and Espinoza to third and second base, respectively, with two outs.

Aleyah Wilbon proceeded to single up the middle, bringing home the two girls and getting the Mounties out to a 2-0 lead. Cerritos starting pitcher Kristen Voller managed to limit the damage after Miranda Larios grounded out to end the third.

The fourth and fifth innings saw both squads strand runners on base. Espinoza continued her torrent pace and Voller had recovered after the damage was inflicted in the third to Cerritos.

The top of the sixth inning provided the spark the Cerritos Falcons had been searching for all game. Briana Lopez would reach first base on an error, which set the table for Carly Gutierrez to leave her footprint on the game. Gutierrez ripped a ball for a double that brought Lopez home.

Now it was the Mounties turn to respond.

Voller seemed to be energized after her offense had finally gotten on the board. She quickly got two outs in the bottom of the sixth. The turning tide was palpable.

Up walked Toni Mendoza, who looked to be the last out before Cerritos roared back on the field to tie or take the lead. Mendoza would battle, however.

After almost 20 pitches, Mendoza drew a walk with two outs. Voller and Cerritos were annoyed, but still had the upper hand in the inning.

Then came Bree Maikai, who too seemed just to be the third and final out for Voller. She quickly searched and Mt. SAC pulled a single out of their rally bag. Mendoza advanced to second and the promiscuous momentum switched sides once more.

With the Mounties’ dugout chanting and hollering, Voller and her Falcons were beginning to feel the pressure mount. Coach Rojas acted on the energy, bringing in pinch runner Sasha Allen for Mendoza at second.

The clapping and yelling was thunderous as Rasso strolled up to the plate. Everyone could feel that, two outs or not, Mt. SAC had regained its edge and confidence. With the smack of Rasso’s bat, they also regained control of the game.

A double to left, bringing home both Allen and Maikai, and suddenly it was Mt. SAC 4, Cerritos 1.

The one-run game had slipped away from the Falcons, snatched by the determination of the Mounties. The hollering of the Mt. SAC dugout could only be matched by the deafening silence of the Cerritos bench.

Still with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Espinoza swaggered to the plate with a dagger at hand. The woman who had pitched so well now had the kill shot on offense – Cerritos’ jugular was exposed. With a swing of her mighty bat, Espinoza slayed the Falcons.

The home run flew over the center field wall and out of the stadium, along with Cerritos’ chances of winning. The Mounties now led 6-1.

Espinoza was removed after six and a third, allowing one earned run and two hits. She was replaced by Tiffany Kennedy-Cummings, who looked to make the victory official.

She strikes out the remaining Cerritos Falcons, moving the Mounties to 38-3 and the second leg of the South Super Regional.

“The girls played awesome, they did what they were supposed to do,” said Coach Rojas, who had just finished addressing the team in the locker room. “They played one pitch at a time–that’s been our focus– they did a great job of doing that.”

Rojas and the team then observed the game between No. 3 seed El Camino and No. 6 seed Antelope Valley. The winner would play Mt. SAC on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Rojas was proud of starting pitcher Espinoza after her victory.

“She did amazing – on the mound and offensively – she definitely carried the team today,” Rojas said.

She seemed most excited about her resilience and mental toughness, however. That was what shined through and was the difference in the game.

“That’s exactly what we do. That’s how they’re taught, that’s how they’re trained,” she said. “If one of them scores, we’re going to respond with 2,3,4 runs…whatever we can do.”

That mentality is what allowed Mt. SAC to score four runs in a two-out sixth inning rally.

“That’s the power of momentum. When one person steps up and contributes, we just take off from there,” She said.

El Camino ended up winning against Antelope Valley, and will face off against the Mounties on Saturday. Cerritos and Antelope Valley will play in a consolation game at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday as well.