Hornets win a tight battle in 3C2A state playoffs opener

A strong second inning where the entire Fullerton College team batted through the lineup help the Hornets beat Antelope Valley College in an intense game one.
Freshman starting pitcher Macy Brandl loads up and hurls a pitch to an opposing Antelope Valley batter at home on Friday, May 3, 2024.
Freshman starting pitcher Macy Brandl loads up and hurls a pitch to an opposing Antelope Valley batter at home on Friday, May 3, 2024.
Eli Young

No. 1 seed Fullerton opened the playoffs for the California Community College Athletic Association softball championship by scoring five runs in an explosive second inning to beat Antelope Valley 5-4 Friday afternoon at Fullerton College. The Hornets took the first game of the best-of-three series.

The Hornets had played the Marauders twice during the regular season. The last meeting, played at Fullerton College on April 13, was a doubleheader with each game resulting in a 3-1 victory for the Hornets.

The Hornets finished their season undefeated in the Orange Empire Conference clinching the conference title weeks before the season ended. However, starting the post season placed a target on their back that Antelope Valley College had within their reach.

The Hornets had an aggressive start to the game, when sophomore center fielder Haley Garcia reached base on an error with one out in the bottom of the first inning. She then stole second base on the very next pitch. Freshman first baseman Veronica Moore proceeded to hit a line drive to left field. Garcia rounded third base and headed toward home plate.

Marauders freshman left fielder Rebecca Sanchez scooped up the ball and launched it towards home plate where Garcia collided into the Marauders catcher sophomore Denise Carrillo for an impressive second out. The message was sent loud and clear early, if the Hornets were going to score, it wasn’t going to be easy.

“They kept our leadoff batter, Jordan Elias, the MVP of the state, off the base and that’s big for us for not getting her on,” said co-head coach Speedy Mendoza.

Freshman first baseman Veronica Moore attempts to connect with the ball and drive in a run for the Hornets. She later connected with a pitch to get herself an RBI. (Eli Young)

In the second inning, the Hornets scored all of their runs for the game. Waiting patiently for the right pitch as freshman starting pitcher Jolene Miramontes seemed to be out of control, the Hornets got on base twice from back-to-back walks.

Sophomore shortstop Cassidy Hornung had the first run batted in with a line drive to left field. The Marauders made an early substitution as Miramontes left the game and Antelope Valley went with a low throwing sophomore Analiese Wagner.

Wagner was tested immediately by the MVP second baseman Elias as she showed bunt on the new pitcher only to feign the move and pull it back to hit. Elias kept the bases loaded for Garcia to hit a deep fly ball to right field. The ball soared in the air over the Marauders right fielder’s head as it rolled to the wall for a triple.

Garcia’s only hit for the day was the biggest one for the Hornets, as she emptied the bases. Garcia drove in all the runners on base to give Fullerton a commanding 4-0 lead. Moore brought Garcia home in the next at bat with a hard grounder up the middle. Moore led all hitters with a 3-3 performance and one RBI.

“I was just looking to come out and just produce for the team,” said Moore. “Playoffs are big and the whole time, I was just trying to keep my mind calm and keep hitting the ball like I know I can.”

“She was hunting pitches,” said assistant coach Brian Iseri. “She was taking great at bats. She’s playing at a different level right now, her confidence and everything, she came to play today.”

Sophomore Haley Garcia seen running rounding second base attempting to advance to third to get in better scoring position for the offense. (Eli Young)

Freshman starting pitcher Macy Brandl was named co-OEC Pitcher of the Year alongside her teammate sophomore Allyson Fuentes earlier this week. In the 142.1 innings Brandl has pitched throughout the 26 games she’s appeared in, the Marauders were able to do what no other team has done all year against Brandl, hit a home run.

Brandl struck out the side of batters in the top of the second inning, but after the Hornets drove in five runs, it was the Marauders turn to score. Sophomore first baseman Cadence Crampton took a ball deep off Brandl to narrow the Hornets’ lead to 5-2. Brandl threw around the next batter, worried of making the same mistake and walked her.

Brandl had a mound visit from the coaches and was back on track, finishing the game with eight strikeouts, six hits, two earned runs and four walks.

“I think that first playoff jitters maybe,” said Brandl. “Everyone’s just trying to keep me calm, especially after that home run.”

Brandl continued to show control in the circle for the next three innings until the final inning when an error allowed the Marauders to score two more runs to make the game very interesting and possibly send the game into extra innings. Strong pitching from Brandl kept the game tying run from reaching home.

“Just try not to focus on it,” said Brandl. “Everyone is trying to just keep me relaxed and not to dwell on the past.”

The Hornets will take on the Marauders on Saturday, May 4, for game two at home at noon. If the Hornets lose game two, there will be a third matchup with Antelope Valley 30 minutes after game two for a chance to advance in the 3C2A state playoffs.

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