Mounties Move to Finals After Battle with Warriors

Tiffany Kennedy-Cummings pitching against Ventura College on May 5, 2017, in the first round of the SoCal regional playoffs. On Saturday, Kennedy-Cummings held El Camino hitless through four innings. Alex Herrera/SAConScene

Tiffany Kennedy-Cummings pitching against Ventura College on May 5, 2017, in the first round of the SoCal regional playoffs. On Saturday, Kennedy-Cummings held El Camino hitless through four innings. Alex Herrera/SAConScene

No. 3 seed El Camino faced off against No. 2 seed Mt. SAC on the second day of the softball Southern California Super Regional Championship on Saturday, which saw the Mounties come away with a 9-5 victory.

Mt. SAC defeated Cerritos and El Camino defeated Antelope Valley a day prior, setting up an evenly matched affair Saturday afternoon on the Mt. SAC grounds, the host field of the tournament.

El Camino came into the game 37-6, a formidable and accomplished team that had the requisite talent to take down the favored Mt. SAC. They were facing Tiffany Kennedy-Cummings, however, a power arm who had been named an All-American in 2016. She had just finished closing out Cerritos in game one on Friday and came in looking to put the Mounties on her back.

Kennedy-Cummings began the game doing just that, allowing no hits through four innings. Mt. SAC has made a habit of pouncing on their opponents, a symbiotic dance between their powerful pitching and potent offense.

Unlike the El Camino Warriors, the Mounties managed to gain traction early, beginning in the bottom of the second inning. Toni Mendoza would single with no outs before being substituted for pinch runner Sasha Allen. Coach Rubilena Rojas’ aggressiveness paid off as the next Mt. SAC batter, Bree Maikai, would triple and bring Allen home for the 1-0 lead.

Alyssa Rasso and Kayla Sok would add two runs in the inning as well, growing the lead.

That is how El Camino starting pitcher, Haley Reed, began her day. She seemed to struggle avoiding the Mountie bats all afternoon, to the Warriors’ detriment.

The next offensive spurt for the Mounties came in the bottom of the fourth. Following a Rasso single, Espinoza would crush a ball into left-center field to score Rasso, increasing their lead to 4-0.

After Carissa Felix sacrifice bunted Espinoza to third base with only one out, the Warriors’ head coach had seen enough. Jessica Rapoza walked to the mound and relieved Reed, in more ways than one.

Rapoza would bring in Brook Sparro in hopes of shaking things up and stopping the ravenous Mt. SAC offense.

Sparro would manage to get out of the bottom of the fourth, but only after Espinoza scored on an error by El Camino catcher Ashley Machado, boosting Mt. SAC’s lead to five runs.

With Kennedy-Cummings and the bashing bats of Mt. SAC, the game seemed to be easily at hand. After they tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning, making it 7-0, El Camino fans in attendance grew impatient – “get it together girls!” begged one mother, the desperation in her voice apparent.

Momentum is fickle, so goes the conventional wisdom in sports. So when Roni Cyrus came in as a pinch hitter for El Camino, it was rather inconspicuous. Cyrus wasn’t even on the tournament pamphlet handed out to fans as they walked into the softball field. Her double-zero jersey number made her an even bigger unknown.

As Cyrus approached the plate, her team down 7-0 in the top of the sixth, momentum threw on an El Camino double-zero jersey. She singled, simple and yet meaningful. Her teammate Raelani Camez doubled, sending Cyrus to third base, no outs.

El Camino catcher Machado, looking to redeem her two prior errors, singled and scored Cyrus. Momentum high fived the Warriors as it jogged to their dugout in the double-zero.

This set off a chain of events, a fiery explosion emanating from the Warriors’ bats. Alyssa Wing drew a walk, Haley Reed singled. Momentum was eating sunflower seeds next to El Camino coaches.

The once-unhittable Kennedy-Cummings looked mortal, arguing calls and becoming ever more frustrated. She missed a pitch inside and hit Kamryn Fisher, who took her base. Machado scored and suddenly it was 7-3 with only 1 out.

Kennedy-Cummings was then pulled in favor of Racqual Espinoza, the hero of the game. She looked to limit the damage, but walked her first batter, Brigid Antonelli. Momentum was drinking Gatorade on the Warriors’ bench.

Espinoza found her footing, however. She struck out Karla Calderón for the second out, and up came Cyrus, the catalyst of El Camino’s comeback. This time, though, Espinoza got her to ground out. Momentum no longer wore the double-zero jersey.

With their lead cut in half, Mt. SAC was forced to respond. After a single by Miranda Larios in the top of the sixth, Taylor Jaurique crushed a two-run homer to right-center field to pad their lead to 9-4 as the Mounties dugout exploded with cheers rather than a sigh of relief.

Even though El Camino managed to add another run in the top of the seventh, Espinoza had regained control of the gamed. She got Haley Reed to hit into a double play to end the game.

Mt. SAC moved to 39-3 on the season, and Kennedy-Cummings improved her record to 15-1 with the win.

The Mounties face Antelope Valley College, who fought their way through the consolation bracket, Sunday at noon in the Southern California Super Regional Championship game.