The Hornet softball squad finally broke through the regional wall reaching the state tourney for the first time since 2005. It was not an easy task as No. 5 Fullerton had to travel to No. 4 El Camino College for the Super Regional playoff series where FC took two games out of three from the Warriors.
Previously, Fullerton had made it to the CCCAA Regional Playoffs four out of the last five seasons, but El Camino put an end to the Hornet's seasons in 2015 and 2016. This season, FC prevailed, but it had to dig out of a few holes.
The Hornets and Warriors met on Friday for game one and lost 3-2. Despite a brilliant performance by pitcher Jessica Lopez (3 hits, 10 K's), Fullerton did not have their defensive mojo going in the fourth inning. With the score tied 1-1, a throwing error gave ECC the opportunity to score two runners.
Behind 3-1 heading into the sixth inning, Fullerton could only muster up one run. Sarah Rengifo ripped a single to left scoring Kaylee Williamson as the Hornets wound up getting back on the bus down 1-0 in the three-game series.
In game two on Saturday afternoon, the Hornets drew first blood scoring a run off of Lulu Vazquez's hard-hit ball up the middle that brought Sabrina Anguiano home.
ECC answered back in a big way in the second inning going up 4-1. Kassidy Robinson hit a single that got through the left side scoring Brooklyn Araujo and Mina Nakawake. Diamond Lewis got in on the action singling up the middle bringing Robinson and Sidra Montoya home.
The Hornet offense remained quiet until the fourth inning. Anabel Mendez stepped up to the plate and blasted a two-run shot that cleared the center field fence. FC now trailed 4-3.
Fullerton's chances were starting look bleak heading into the sixth inning. Once again, Mendez came up to the plate and made the Hornet Nation proud as she crushed another two-run homer over center field.
Now up 5-4, Jessica Lopez (18-5) came in to grab the win forcing two ground outs and a pop fly to force a series-deciding game three. She went 3 innings with no runs, no hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts. Lulu Vasquez got the start throwing 4 innings with 7 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts.
Both teams took to the field after a brief break. The score remained tied 0-0 until the third when El Camino's Diamond Lewis hit a hard-hit single down the left line scoring Kate Cunningham.
Down 1-0, the Hornet fans remained on the edge of their seats waiting for the FC offense to respond. They finally did in the sixth when Lulu Vasquez hit a deep SAC fly to center giving Clarissa Hernandez the chance to score. Khloe Lilavois kept it going breaking up the 1-1 tie on her hit up the middle that plated Veronica Garza. An errant throw by the pitcher allowed Lilavios to come all the way around.
In the seventh inning with Fullerton up 3-1, Anabel Mendez put the nail in the coffin hitting her third home run of the day, a solo shot that sailed over the left field fence.
Jessica Lopez (19-5) earned her 19th win of the season going 7 innings with 5 hits against, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts.
The last time the Hornet played in the state tournament was back in 2005 under head coach Lisa Bassi. Fullerton ended that season with a second place finish in confrence and an overall record of 31-16.
Up Next: The No. 5 seed from the south Hornets (37-7 overall) will play in the CCCAA State Tournament at Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield May 16-19. All games will be broadcast live via SoCal College Sports. More information can be found at the CCCAA's Tournament Page. The Hornets will open up against No. 1 in the north San Mateo (41-2 overall) this Friday, May 17th at Bakersfield College. The first pitch goes out at 1:30 pm.
Photos by Jim McCormack.