By Andrew Wheeler
Citrus College Sports Information Coordinator
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - With their unblemished record and a berth into the 2017 California Community College Athletic Association Softball State Championship Game on the line, Cypress College (47-0) overcame an inauspicious start to advance to the final day of the 2017 championships. The Chargers defeated Mt. San Antonio College 6-4 on Saturday afternoon, for their 11th trip to championship Sunday.
Mt. SAC (41-4) came out firing. Sophomore Kayla Sok led off with a triple to right field, and two at bats later, sophomore Taylor Jaurique hit a two-run home run down the left field line to give the Mounties a 2-0 lead.
"I told the girls, that if we we're going to get down we might as well get down in the first inning, because then we'll have seven innings to come back," Cypress College Head Coach Brad Pickler said. "We've been down before this year. No one's really jumped on us like that, but we knew if we could limit the damage, that eventually we'd be ok. Our message was to really just stay calm."
Mt. SAC would threaten again in the top of the second when sophomore Racqual Espinoza led the inning off with a single, and was then sacrificed to second. Cypress freshman pitcher Destiny Vasquez, the California Community College Fastpitch Coaches Association State Pitcher of the Year, finally settled down though, and got a pop up to freshman shortstop Sydney McCollum and a big strike out of Jaurique two at bats later to get out of the inning.
"She's a competitor," Pickler said of Vasquez. "She settled down and got into a groove after the early bumps. She's fighting through some nagging injuries here at the end of the year, and she's a tough player."
With Vasquez finally starting to find her way, the Chargers got a big boost when sophomore Alexis Zavala led the second inning off with a solo shot to right-center field. Cypress would proceed to load up the bases, but ended up stranding all three runners. It didn't seem to matter though as momentum was seemingly now on the Chargers' side.
After Vasquez sat the Mounties down in order in the top of the third, sophomore Nicole Wise gave Cypress the lead with a 2-RBI single to left-center field that plated Zavala and sophomore Jenny Vasquez. In the bottom of the fourth, it was McCollum who came through for the Chargers, ripping an RBI single through the right side of the field that brought home freshman Kiana Puailoa from second base and made it 4-2.
Cypress kept it going in the bottom of the fifth, when sophomore Emma Walker lifted a pitch over the center field fence to give the Chargers a three-run advantage. Mt. SAC would make a run at the Cypress lead in the top of the sixth, getting an RBI double off the top of the center field wall by sophomore Alyssa Rasso and a RBI groundout by sophomore Mariah Zaragoza to pull within a run.
Wise would give the Chargers a little breathing room in the bottom half of the sixth, with a two-out RBI single to center field that scored McCollum. In the top of the seventh, Vasquez once again set the Mounties down in order, her third such inning of the game, securing the Cypress victory.
In the win, the Chargers were paced by McCollum and Wise. Wise finished 4-for-4 with three RBIs, while McCollum went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Walker finished 2-for-3, while Vasquez scattered seven hits, four runs, and a pair of walks over her seven innings of work to pick up her 28th win of the year. For the Mounties sophomore Toni Mendoza was 2-for-3, while Jaurique finished 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
With the win, Cypress advances to the championship game for the first time since their 2012 state title. The Chargers will take on the winner of the final game of the night which will pit Mt. SAC and the winner of the middle game of the day between College of San Mateo and San Joaquin Delta College. Cypress is 9-3 all-time on championship Sunday under Head Coach Brad Pickler.
"Our plan is to go back to the hotel, have a good dinner, have a great night sleep, and come back tomorrow and win it in one game," Pickler said.
The championship tilt is scheduled for a 12:00 PM start tomorrow at Bakersfield College.