SAN MARCOS, CA (2/11/2020) – Combining standout defense with shutout pitching and timely hitting, the Palomar softball squad tuned up for a showdown with defending two-time state champion Mt. San Antonio by defeating Fullerton, 5-0, in nonconference action on the Comets' field.
Palomar won its seventh game in eight outings by playing errorless defense which included a perfect relay to cut down a potential Fullerton run in the first inning and pair of inning-ending double plays. Freshman second baseman Ayiana Hernandez provided the pivot in all three plays.
Benefitting from the strong defense was sophomore pitcher Cat Aguilar, who went the distance with a six-hit shutout. She struck out three batters with no walks.
The first defensive gem by the Comets came after Madison Ferguson singled with one out in the top of the first inning for the Hornets. Danielle Ramirez followed with a double to right field, but when Ferguson tried to score from first base, she was thrown out by a relay started by sophomore right fielder Samantha Renteria. Hernandez took the throw and fired a strike to sophomore catcher Kendall Kates, who applied the tag on Ferguson just before she slid across the plate.
After Ramirez was stranded at third, Kates led off the bottom of the first with a triple to right field on the second pitch she saw from Fullerton starting pitcher Jessica Lopez. Kates scored one out later on an RBI single by Renteria.
Aguilar began a 1-4-3 double play to end the Fullerton second, with Hernandez relaying to sophomore first baseman Rylee Penrod. The Comets padded their lead to 2-0 in the third with Renteria driving home Kates again with a run-scoring double to right after the Comets catcher led off with a single.
Aguilar allowed only one hit over the next four innings, and Palomar added to its lead in the bottom the fifth when Renteria and Penrod both launched home runs deep to left field to go back-to-back for the second time in as many games.
After Fullerton placed runners at first and second with consecutive one-out singles in the seventh, the Comets turned a game-ending 6-4-3 double play as freshman shortstop Samarah Martinez converted to Hernandez, who delivered again to Penrod.
Kates and Renteria finished with three hits apiece to pace a 10-hit Palomar attack.
Palomar is hosting Mt. SAC on Friday, Feb. 14, in a rematch of teams who squared off in the last two state championship finals. First pitch is scheduled for noon.
"Whether we are playing Mt. SAC or Fullerton or a conference opponent, we have to learn how to continue to improve every game," said Palomar head coach Lacey Craft. "We're a young team, but it's nice to have that sophomore leadership, and the freshmen are starting to step up."