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Malachy Russell-Millen scores the game-winning run. Photo by Cara Heise.
Malachy Russell-Millen scores the game-winning run. Photo by Cara Heise.

Late rally carries Comets past San Mateo

WALNUT, CA. (5/19/2023) – Palomar College rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday to stun defending state champion College of San Mateo, 2-1, in the second round of the California Community College Athletic Association State Softball Tournament at Mt. San Antonio College. 

For the second straight tournament contest, the Comets (42-1) took advantage of defensive errors late in the game to mount the winning rally. Freshman right fielder Faith Steffany started the seventh with a double past the San Mateo third baseman. Steffany advanced to third when a grounder to third by sophomore second baseman Malachy Russell-Millen was misplayed, and following a pitching change freshman third baseman Itzell De Los Rios was intentionally walked to load the bases. 

Sophomore catcher Ellison Hazlett bounced a grounder to shortstop which scored Steffany with the game-tying run and was then thrown away at first base, allowing Russell-Millen to score the game-winner. 

Palomar will play a third-round game on Saturday against Cerritos, an 8-2 winner over South Coast Conference rival Mt. San Antonio in Friday's other winners-bracket matchup. 

Winning pitcher India Caldwell limited the Bulldogs (38-8) to three hits. The sophomore right-hander retired the first 13 batters she faced before allowing a one-out walk in the fifth, her first free pass of the postseason. But that runner was erased by a 4-6-3-double play turned by Russell-Millen and sophomore shortstop Elisa Haas

There were no baserunners in the game until Palomar sophomore center fielder Cadee Herrmann beat out an infield single to the left side with one out in the bottom of the third inning, but the Bulldogs turned an inning-ending double play to end the threat. 

Herrmann then made a diving catch in shallow center field following a long run to retire the leadoff batter in the top of the fourth to preserve the no-hit bid, but San Mateo managed its first hit of the game on a leadoff single in the top of the sixth by Hailey Meisenbach. Following a pair of groundouts, an infield single to short scored the go-ahead run for a 1-0 Bulldogs lead. 

Caldwell allowed one more hit in the top of the seventh but stranded a runner at second base to finish off a three-hitter which included two walks (one intentional) and two strikeouts. Offensively the Comets were limited to four hits by starting San Mateo starting pitcher Siona Halwani before the seventh-inning comeback.