(Casie Nguyen / Lariat Staff)
Through the first two games of a best-of-three first round, the No. 6 Saddleback College softball team had seen a lull in its record-setting pace of power numbers. Even the most well oiled machines need a tune up.
That is what the first two games looked like, as the Gauchos exploded for two, three-run home runs with two outs in the second inning, and an early 7-0 lead in an eventual 8-5 win in Game 3 against No. 11 Palomar College Sunday (May 2).
Saddleback improved to 33-10 along with a loss earlier in the day in Game 2 of the three-game series, and advanced to the Southern California Super Regional at Cypress College Thursday-Sunday (May 7-9). The Gauchos will open up Friday (May 7) against No. 3 East Los Angeles College in the double-elimination tournament.
Palomar fell to 21-13 and was eliminated from the playoffs.
Saddleback fell behind early in Game 2 as Teresa Houle hit a home run for the Comets to take a 1-0 lead.
The Gauchos fought back in the fourth inning with their first home run of the series as Ashley Putkamer sent a three-run blast to straightaway center field to take the 3-1 lead.
“We came ready to play,” Saddleback third baseman Blyth Ashby said, “but it didn’t go as we planned.”
Palomar ripped up Saddleback’s plans the in top of the sixth inning, as Houle struck another solo home run and the Comets worked the bases to score on Marissa Valdez’s RBI double and Katrina Cutshaw’s RBI single to take a 4-3 lead.
Saddleback threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Chelsea Lievanos was thrown out at home for the third out of the inning.
Saddleback and Palomar went scoreless the rest of the way, and Palomar took the game 4-3 and tied the series at one game each.
Saddleback came back with a vengeance in Game 3, and turned on its power switch.
Blyth Ashby sent out the first three-run blast with two out in the second inning continuing an impressive weekend at the plate.
“I was moved up to the first spot in the order for this series,” said Ashby, who racked up five hits, four runs, and three RBI in the series to lead the Gauchos. “It made me step up and play better. I had to be in more pressure situations.”
After both Bosshart twins, Sarah and Kelly, reached base, Starr White hit another two-out, three-run home run for her 17th of the season.
Megan Geiger reached base on an error by the shortstop in the third inning, and was worked around the bases with the small ball tactics of a sacrifice bunt, single, and scored on a grounder to third base to establish a 7-0 Gauchos lead.
While Palomar responded with two small ball runs of its own in the fourth inning, the Comets offense was kept quiet until a final two-out rally in the seventh inning.
Palomar worked out three runs, and eventually brought the tying run to the plate with two runners on base. However, Bella Casillas grounded out to the shortstop K. Bosshart to seal the game at 8-5 and clinch the series for Saddleback.
Doering earned the win for the Gauchos, including both wins in the series, and improved to 21-4 in seven innings pitched. She allowed five runs on 12 hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Danielle LeBeau earned the loss for Palomar, her third decision of the series, and fell to 10-10 in 1.2 innings pitched. She allowed five runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
With the three home runs on the day, Saddleback pulled within one of the state record of 66 set by Cerritos College last season.
“This win will give us great momentum,” Ashby said. “We improved from yesterday (May 1) and had no errors.”
Saddleback will now have to take their game and momentum on the road for the rest of the season, as the Gauchos advance to the Super Regionals at Cypress College. Saddleback opens with East Los Angeles College on Friday (May 7).
“This win was huge,” Ashby said, “because we have the momentum to beat [East LA] and move on.”