Mt. SAC won their way into the State playoffs as the No. 2 seed Mounties defeated No. 6 seed Antelope Valley College 8-4 in the final game of the Southern California Super Regional on Sunday.
Mt. SAC came in as the favorite, while Anetelope Valley had to play its way out of the consolation bracket for a chance at redemption.
The stakes were as high as Antelope Valley’s starting pitcher Morgan Arndt and Mt. SAC’s starting pitcher Racqual Espinoza took the mound. The winner would move on to play the winner of the Northern California Super Regional next weekend.
The Marauders got off to a self-defeating start as they completed four errors in the first three innings to help give an early lead. The Mounties had not earned a hit up to that point, and wouldn’t until Taylor Jaurique singled in the top of the fourth inning.
The bottom of that inning saw Antelope Valley finally assert themselves into the game. Tawnee Hegre and Dolly Stevens began the scoring with a single and walk, respectively. This allowed Marauder head coach Cindy Vargas to call on Elise Moore to attempt a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, which she executed successfully.
With runners on second and third and one out, Sally Miramontes drew a walk to load the bases for Antelope Valley before Amanda Dones came in to pinch run for her. The next batter was none other than the starting pitcher herself, Morgan Arndt, with the opportunity to help her own cause. Arndt did not waste the opportunity. She singled to left to score Hegre and Stevens and move Miramontes to third.
Antelope Valley would take the 4-2 lead after Mountie catcher Jaurique made an errant throw to home plate for an error – still with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Espinoza, who had been masterful earlier in the weekend, was shaky this outing. It seemed the Maraurders had her number, so Mt. SAC head coach Rubilena Rojas sensed the trouble and decided to make a change of her own – bringing in Tiffany Kennedy-Cummings in favor of the fading Espinoza.
Kennedy-Cummings would repay her coach for the switch immediately, as she forced Sarah Weiser to hit into a double play and escaped the rough inning for the Mounties.
If there was a recurring motif in these playoffs for Mt. SAC it has been responding to adversity. The regional championship game was no exception.
Once again down after a few huge runs by Antelope Valley that forced a pitching change, the Mounties would fight their way back on top. With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the fifth inning, Aleyah Wilbon singled to dead center, scoring pinch runner Sasha Allen.
Arndt strapped in after giving up the RBI and got Miranda Larios to pop up to end the top of the fifth.
The bottom of the fifth would also prove to be a test for Kennedy-Cummings, as she walked two batters with one out, giving Antelope Valley the opening to stretch their lead. Miramontes would single, advancing the runners to second and third base with two outs.
This pinned opposing pitchers against one another, as Arndt faced off against Kennedy-Cummings with the chance make an impact on both sides of the ball. Mt. SAC would escape the inning, however, on a strikeout, avoiding ceding momentum back to the Marauders.
After the out, Kennedy-Cummings pumped her fist and let out a yell as she approached her catcher Jaurique. The Mounties were pumped up and ready to finish off the comeback.
Jaurique happened to be the first batter of the sixth inning. She crushed a foul ball to left, and the home crowd gasped. She swung a second time, another monster foul ball to left. The crowd once again filled with murmurs – “She’s going to get it, she’s got it!” exclaimed one of the parents of the Mounties.
With the echoes of that prediction still in the air, Jaurique launched a ball over center field and over the scoreboard. Just like that, it was a tie game, and the Mt. SAC dugout exploded – running to home plate and mobbing Jaurique as she jogged back.
Mt. SAC would add two more runs in that inning, with Bree Maikai and Alyssa Rasso reaching home plate. A one-run deficit was now a two-run surplus.
Kennedy Cummings would mow through the order in the bottom of the sixth, inducing a pop up and two strikeouts.
Kayla Sok would bunt to lead off the seventh, beating out the throw to first. The Mounties clapped and chanted in the background as Sok looked back, smiling.
Wilbon followed suit by singling and advancing Sok to third base as the Mounties dugout became a concert hall with voices reverberating with joy and jubilation. Wilbon then stole second base after Antelope Valley threw to third to check on Sok. She, too, looked back – pointing and gesturing to her dugout – as they engulfed the field with screams of support.
Even though they led by two, the Mounties looked to put the game away for good.
Kristen Williams popped a sacrifice fly into the shiny spring sky to score Sok and move Wilbon over to third for the first out. Jaurique followed with a sacrifice fly ball of her own, sending Wilbon sliding into home plate as the umpire gave out an emphatic “Safe!”
Arndt got Mendoza to ground out to end the inning, but not before Mt. SAC went up by four runs in the final inning of play.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Kennedy-Cummings trotted onto the field to make their imminent victory a matter of record. A fly out and two strikeouts later, and the Mounties were southern California champions.
The home crowd applauded their team as Mt. SAC ran onto the field and hugged each other. They had won the south Super Regional tournament and were now an astounding 40-3 on the season.
Rojas was given a bouquet of red roses as congratulations on a job well done as she took pictures with her team.
“This super regionals was so exciting and emotional at the same time,” she said. “it tested us on so many levels. It was a great stepping stone to prepare us for next week.”
“It allowed the girls to dig deeper when they were behind and respond to any obstacle they faced … We faced three very challenging teams.”
Mt SAC moves on to the state playoffs, where they will face northern California No. 1 seed San Mateo on Friday, May 19, at 5:30 p.m. The College of San Mateo is 36-6 on the season.