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Photo by Cara Heise.
Photo by Cara Heise.

Comets finish as runners-up

WALNUT, CA. (5/21/2023) – Palomar College was denied a sixth state championship Sunday after Cypress took two games from the Comets in the championship finals of the California Community College Athletic State Softball Tournament at Mt. San Antonio College. 

Cypress, needing to win both games of the finals to keep the Comets from winning the championship, scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning of Game 1 to win, 3-2. The Chargers, champions of the Orange Empire Conference, then scored the only run of Game 2 in the bottom of the third inning for a title-clinching 1-0 victory, the first time the Comets had been shut out all season. 

Palomar, champions of the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference, finished the season with a 43-3 record, while Cypress finished 44-7 after claiming its 10th state title and first since 2017. 

Comets pitcher India Caldwell was named the Most Valuable Pitcher of the tournament after pitching all 34 innings for Palomar. The sophomore right-hander finished her season with a record of 30-3. Teammates who were named to the all-tournament team included sophomore center fielder Cadee Herrmann and freshman right fielder Faith Steffany.

Cypress won Game 1 with a two-run rally in the top of the seventh inning without the benefit of a hit, taking advantage of two Palomar errors and a passed ball to score a pair of unearned runs. 

The Chargers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on a solo home run to center field by pitcher Emily Rush. Palomar responded with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, which began with a leadoff single to left by sophomore designated player Aaliyah Rivas

With freshman Carlee Herrmann on base as a pinch-runner, freshman right fielder Faith Steffany beat out a bunt single, and both runners advanced on a throwing error. One out later, freshman third baseman Itzell De Los Rios came through with a single down the left-field line to drive in two runs for a 2-1 Palomar lead. 

The Comets stranded runners at first and third in the sixth inning but were still three outs away from victory going into the seventh. The first two runners reached base on an error and hit by pitch, and both advanced on a sacrifice bunt. 

A passed ball allowed the lead runner to score the tying run, and a throwing error on the play brought home the go-ahead run as Cypress assumed a 3-2 lead. Cadee Herrmann hit a one-out single to left in the bottom of the seventh, but she was erased by a game-ending double-play grounder to shortstop. 

Caldwell allowed only three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts while being tagged with just her second loss of the season. 

Palomar had eight hits, including two apiece by Steffany and De Los Rios. 

In Game 2, Palomar stranded four runners in the first two innings against Rush, and then left two runners on base in the top of the seventh after Rush issued a pair of two-out walks. 

Cypress scored the game's only run off Caldwell on an RBI single by Kaitlyn Reynolds following an intentional walk to Rush after the inning began with a leadoff single. 

The Chargers out-hit the Comets, 6-5, with freshman left fielder Jonessa Hebreo collecting two hits for Palomar.