Comets overcome Warriors with late rallies

Ayiana Hernandez scored one run in the fifth for the Comets after hitting a single to centerfield.
Ayiana Hernandez scored one run in the fifth for the Comets after hitting a single to centerfield.

SAN MARCOS, CA (3/7/2020) – Rylee Penrod hit an opposite-field triple with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to drive in Samarah Martinez with the winning run and spark a 6-5 comeback victory for Palomar College over El Camino in a nonconference softball matchup.

Martinez, a freshman shortstop who had five assists and two ninth-inning putouts on defense, led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to right field. Penrod, a sophomore first baseman, came up one out later and lofted a deep fly ball to the right-field corner, bringing Martinez home from first as the Comets improved to 16-3 on the season.

Palomar overcame a 5-2 deficit with a three-run sixth inning which prompted extra innings and led to the Comets' fourth straight win.

"We battled, and that was really good to see," head coach Lacey Craft said. "It was scary, but they're a scrappy team and that's the kind of game we would expect from them.

"Our pitchers were effective, and we played great defense to hold them down until we could get the bats going."

El Camino, the defending South Coast Conference, Southern Division champions who are currently ranked No. 9 in the Southern California coaches poll, scored in the top of the first inning on a solo home run to left field by catcher Marissa Garza before taking a 2-0 lead in the third on a two-out, run-scoring single by starting pitcher Clarissa Chiquette.

 The Comets, ranked No. 3 in the SoCal poll, cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fourth inning, which began with a leadoff single by sophomore right fielder Samantha Renteria. Freshman Serenity Burroughs replaced Renteria as a pinch-runner, advancing to second when Penrod was hit by a pitch and taking third on a groundout by freshman designated player Rocky Moore. Burroughs then scored on a groundout to shortstop by freshman left fielder Leatumalama Unutoa.

The Warriors responded by taking a 4-1 lead in the top of the fifth on a two-out, two-run single by pinch-hitter McKenna Zayas. Palomar again cut the El Camino lead in half with a run in the bottom of the fifth when freshman second baseman Ayiana Hernandez led off with a single to center, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman center fielder Ryenne Stehly, stole third and scored on a bloop double to left by sophomore catcher Kendall Kates.

El Camino answered again with an unearned run in the sixth inning when pinch-runner Amanda Johnson scored on a throwing error at third base by Kates to give the visitors a 5-2 advantage.

Palomar's sixth-inning rally began with a leadoff single to left by Penrod, who was then forced out at second on a fielder's choice grounder by Moore. Unutoa followed with a triple to the gap in left-center, scoring Moore.

After a pop-up for the second out, Hernandez was hit by a pitch. Stehly and Kates then followed with RBI singles to tie the score at 5-5.

Each team stranded a baserunner in the seventh inning, and El Camino had two runners on with one out in the eighth following singles by Kaela Little and Garza, but Martinez started a 6-4-3 double play to squelch the threat.

The Warriors went down in order in the top of the ninth against Palomar pitcher Cat Aguilar, setting up the winning rally in the bottom of the inning which dropped El Camino to 11-7 on the season.

Freshman pitcher Alyssa Domingo started for the Comets and went three innings, allowing two runs on six hits. Aguilar, a sophomore, took over in the fourth inning and worked six innings for the win, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits. She walked one and struck out seven while improving her record to 10-1.

Kates, Renteria, Penrod and Unutoa all had two hits apiece for the Comets, who are off until Friday, March 13, when they visit Grossmont for a Pacific Coast Athletic Conference game at 1 p.m.