Congratulations to the Antelope Valley College Women’s sophomore team. Undefeated in conference 18-0 and 33-5 overall record. Here comes the state playoffs.
Don’t count AVC out
By: Merisa Jensen
LANCASTER – The Antelope Valley College softball team’s season has been all about love – love for each other and for the game.
So, the Marauders weren’t about to let each other down or let anything stop them – not even an eight-run deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning – in their quest for an undefeated Western State Conference title.
"We were not going to lose this game no matter what," AVC designated hitter Elise Moore said. "We were going to use every tear, every drop of blood, every drop of sweat to win this game. We were not losing. They did a good job, but we wanted it."
AVC swept a doubleheader with Citrus on Tuesday, winning the first game 14-10 before scoring nine runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 17-16, epic comeback victory in the second game and finished the conference with a perfect 18-0 record.
"Today in general was just a total team effort," AVC third baseman Paige Johnson said. "This last inning showed how much we love each other and how much we care about each other. We all fought back and I think that shows how much of a team we are."
The Owls (24-14, 13-5 WSC) didn’t make it easy for the Marauders (33-5, 18-0), especially in the second game. A grand slam by Celine Spathias, her second home run of the second game, in the top of the seventh gave Citrus what looked to be a comfortable eight-run cushion, 16-8, heading to the bottom of the inning.
But the Marauders had other plans.
"In all my years of coaching, I have never seen such a thing," AVC coach Cindy Vargas said. "That was ultimate comeback against a very good team. Dolly (Stevens) said, going into that last inning, ‘Come on guys, this ain’t nothing. Eight runs, we got this.’ They just never give up."
Kyrstan Cook led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and was pulled for pinch runner Morgan Arndt. Katie Weiser flew out on a spectacular diving catch by the left fielder, but Samantha Arriola followed with a single and pinch hitter Rebecca Welchel drew a walk to load the bases.
Tawnee Hegre followed with an RBI single to center field and the bases were still loaded for Johnson, who leads the state in home runs. The Owls decided to walk Johnson, giving up a run in place of what might have been four. That brought up Dolly Stevens, who is right behind Johnson in home runs in the state, and the Owls chose to walk her, too, pulling AVC within five, 16-11.
Hegre then scored on a wild pitch to make it 16-12 and Moore followed with an RBI single, bringing the Marauders within three with just one out.
"I was ready," Moore said. "I had a feeling they were going to (walk Johnson and Stevens) and I was like, ‘I’m going to help my team out right here.’ I wanted to be in that position."
Jennifer Littlejohn hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out. That brought up Arndt, who hit an RBI single to left field on the first pitch she saw to bring the Marauders within two, 16-14.
Sara Weiser then hit a two-run double to bring home Littlejohn and Arndt for the game-tying runs on some aggressive base running and the crowd went wild.
Then came Arriola again. She was solid at the plate all day with five hits up until that point. She got a pep talk from Johnson and Stevens and then smacked an 0-1 pitch to left field for a double, which scored Weiser from second for the winning run.
"It felt amazing because of the positivity my team gave me, it just fueled me up to keep going, keep pushing," Arriola said. "I basically wanted to do it for them."
The crowd was on its feet for most of the seventh and the players ran out to congratulate Weiser, while some went to congratulate Arriola at second.
It was a big day for Arriola, who finished 6-for-8 on the day. She was a triple shy of the cycle in the first game, going 3-for-3 with her first home run of the season.
"It felt great," Arriola said. "I was so excited."
She added two doubles in the second game and recorded four RBIs on the day.
Stevens also had a good day at the plate, only recording one out on a deep fly ball to left in foul territory. She was 4-for-4 in the first game with a home run and a double and 3-for-4 in the second game with a two-run home run, three RBIs and a walk. She now has 18 home runs.
The Marauders hit six home runs in the first game, which they also had to come back to win. Moore smacked a three-run home run in the third inning to pull the Marauders within one, 6-5.
Moore was 5-for-8 on the day with five RBIs. Hegre was 4-for-4 in the first game with the second home run of her career, two RBIs and four runs. She was 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs in the second game.
"It felt great to help the team out, just one step toward their success," Moore said.
Johnson and Stevens went back-to-back in the fourth inning to pull the Marauders within one again, 10-9.
The Owls took a 10-5 lead with two outs in the fourth and Arndt, the starting pitcher, was replaced by Cook, who shut down Citrus for 3 innings to earn the victory. She had three strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit or a walk.
"I knew they were going to hit me and when I stepped out there, my teammates were like, ‘We’re behind you, we’ve got everything,’" Cook said. "That’s what got me focused and I knew I was going to do good. It felt really good."
In the bottom of the fifth, AVC loaded the bases on a walk, a single and a fielder’s choice. Hegre beat out an infield single to bring in Katie Weiser for the tying run and set up a bases-loaded at-bat for Johnson.
Johnson smacked the 1-0 pitch over the scoreboard in left field for a grand slam to give the Marauders the lead for good. It was her 21st home run of the season.
"I just drove it and, at first, I didn’t think it was out, I just thought it was a base hit and the next thing I knew, it was out," Johnson said.
Johnson was 4-for-8 overall with two home runs, a double, eight RBIs and five runs scored.
Arndt, Cook and Hegre shared pitching duties in the second game and Hegre took the win after the big comeback.
Now, the team will look to the playoffs, which will be announced on Saturday.