By William Hernandez
California Community College Athletic Association State Pitcher of the Year Alashanee Medina of East Los Angeles College, was filled with emotion and disappointment, after she flied out to center field, which ended the 2014 softball season for the Huskies.
“I have mixed emotions right now because we worked so hard to get here. We had to start from the bottom in my first year. I thought, What am I getting myself into?” Medina said. “Our top goal was to go state, but at the end of the day I’m proud of my team because no one expected us to win conference.”
No. 9-seeded Saddleback College knocked No. 8-seeded ELAC out of the CCCAA Southern Regional Round 1 of the playoffs, taking the three-game series, 2-0. Saddleback won consecutive one-run games. They won game one 5-4 in nine innings May 3 and eliminating ELAC in game two 3-2 the following day.
Both teams battled neck-to-neck, but when the ELAC defense committed uncharacteristic errors, Saddleback capitalized. “When it’s playoff time, it is the top-16 (teams) and at anytime a team can get hot. We hoped to bring our defense and our bats, but unfortunately we did not,” ELAC Head Coach Erika Blanco said.
“That is the nature of championship ball, you play all year and prepare, but it is all about the team that comes prepared to play that weekend.”
Down, 3-2, in the sixth inning of game two, ELAC’s opportunity to tie or take the lead was counterbalanced by some misfortune. With runners on first and second, ELAC third baseman Raleen Fuentes smashed a line-drive to the right side of the infield.
The ball hit the third base bag and then stayed in the field of play loading the bases, but preventing the runners from scoring. “It is a game of inches. If that goes through we score two runs. That is just the nature of playoff softball, you win with the ball of inches or you go down with the ball of inches,” Blanco said.
ELAC finished their storybook season 29-11 overall, and 18-3 in the South Coast Conference. Blanco was named South Coast Conference Coach of the Year. ELAC’s starting catcher Valerie Aguilar was named to the All-SCC First Team while center fielder Larissa Munoz was named to the All-SCC Second Team.
Medina needed only three more outs to cement the game one victory on Saturday, but Saddleback’s second baseman Chandler Smith lead doubled to lead off the top of the seventh inning. A throwing error to first base by Aguilar, went into right field allowing Smith to tie the score at three.
Saddleback scored to take the lead in the top of the eighth after ELAC starting first baseman Larae Gonzales misplayed a routine ground ball to first. “I was on my heels and did not give myself enough time to come up for it and just stayed back. Since I stayed back, I was trying to do it all at once, which you could never really do,” Gonzales said.
“I rushed it a little since she (Saddleback shortstop Adrienne Goodban) was a left handed hitter and they tend to be faster.” Aguilar delivered for her team in game one when she belted a home run to center field in the bottom of the eighth inning that tie the score at four.
“I seriously thought it hit the top of the fence, but then they told me it hit the flag pole so I just kept running,” Aguilar said.
Saddleback countered with a long ball of their own, after pinch hitter Sarah DiTommaso homered over the centerfield fence to break a 4-4 tie.
“This is the first year we have had a lot of depth. Just like DiTommaso who came off the bench to hit a home run. She hit 10 home runs last season for us but wasn’t a starter this season,” Saddleback Head Coach Nick Trani said.
“We were just evenly matched. We played them (ELAC) three times this year and each game we barely won by one run. Blanco did a great job, to win their conference is a tough thing to do.”
Saddleback pitcher Bree Beatty battled for nine innings against Medina, but it was Beatty that got the victory in game 1.
“Our pitchers pitched the best they have all year, because they had been holding us down. They finally came alive and did a great job of holding the ELAC hitter’s down,” Trani said.
Medina tossed 15 innings on zero days rest, and says that after losing game 1, she had to pitch game 2.
“That’s been my rule since I’ve been here,” Medina said.
According to Blanco, the early postseason exit does not accurately portray the 2014 SCC champions.
“I emphasized to the girls that this is not a disappointment. To win the conference and go 29-9 during the regular season, is amazing,” Blanco said.
“If I can write that up every year I’ll be set.”
Saddleback advanced to the Super Regionals and will face the No. 2-seeded Cypress College (28-12).
“It was great run but we just fell short. I have never caught a pitcher who has so much movement in her pitches like Medina does” Aguilar said.
Medina has not decided yet where she will play next season.
Blanco said there will be plenty of opportunities for Medina to compete in the next level, “It all depends on whether she wants to go away or stay close to home,” Blanco said.