Softball Goes Distance With #5 Santiago Canyon, Season Ends

Nathalia Velasquez tied PCC softball's school record for hits in a season with 62.
Nathalia Velasquez tied PCC softball's school record for hits in a season with 62.

The Pasadena City College softball team, seeded No. 12, gave No. 5 seed and host Santiago Canyon all it could handle during a closely-played SoCal Regional First Round series, but the Hawks ultimately eliminated the Lancers, two games-to-one, May 4-5. 

PCC (26-17 overall) finished the 2018 season with one more victory than in 2017 and made the postseason two straight seasons for the first time since 2005-2006 under head coach Monica Tantlinger.

In the opener of the series on Friday, sophomore ace Angel Wintercorn tossed a brilliant 5-hitter with eight strikeouts as PCC stunned the Hawks, 4-1. The Lancers scored all four runs to erase a 1-0 deficit in the top of the fourth inning. Freshman first baseman Amanda Flores ripped a 2-RBI double down the right field line for a 2-1 lead. Letterman second baseman Alex Howard added a RBI single. It was just the 11th loss v. 30 wins by Santiago Canyon.

In Saturday's game 2, PCC seemed poise to advance in the regionals as it put up three runs in the fifth, and held a 3-0 lead behind five shutout innings from freshman pitcher Britney Lopez. Sophomore lefty-hitting leftfielder Briana Hernandez lined an opposite field single that scored two runs (one RBI, one on a fielding error). In the sixth, the Hawks rallied for three runs to tie it, including the second home run in two games by Rylie Seip. In the seventh, SCC put a runner on third base and with two outs, Amber Elliott hit a walk-off RBI single off Wintercorn, who relieved Lopez in the sixth, to send the Lancers to a 4-3 defeat. Hernandez, Howard and sophomore third baseman Angelica Lopez each had two hits for PCC.

In the deciding game 3, Santiago Canyon jumped out to a 5-0 lead thanks in part to a bases-clearing, 3-RBI double by Elliott in the second inning. The Lancers, playing as the home team due to a coin flip, wouldn't quit though, scoring a run in the second inning and two more in the third, keyed by a RBI double by freshman designated player Nathalia Velasquez. In the fourth, PCC cut it to 5-4 with letterman catcher Jeneve Medrano hitting a double and being brought home on a sacrifice fly to center by Angelica Lopez

After the Hawks added a run in the fifth, PCC had a golden opportunity in the sixth with a 2-out rally. Velasquez and Flores both ripped singles and Medrano drew a walk to load the bases. But Hawks reliever Danielle Stallings, who fired a complete game win earlier in the day, ended the threat by getting centerfielder Angel Urbina to ground out to short to close the inning. Stallings would retire PCC 1-2-3 in the seventh for the save as the Lancers season ended in a 6-4 loss. Britney Lopez was outstanding in relief for PCC as she allowed just one hit and one unearned run in five innings of work. Velasquez went 2-for-3 and Medrano 2-for-4. The Lancers ended up stranding 11 runners on base.

"Last year, I think we were happy just to make it to the playoffs, but this year, we really went out trying desperately to advance," said PCC head coach Monica Tantlinger. "Overall, I felt that our team was full of competitors. They believed they could beat anyone, and we really gave Santiago Canyon a battle in all three games. They were never comfortable especially after we took that first game. I am heartbroken the season is over because I will miss our sophomores tremendously. But I'm also excited about our returning kids. The future looks bright for us."

Velasquez, who also played the outfield for the Lancers in her first collegiate season, tied PCC's 18-year-old school record for most hits in a season with 62 (Melissa Payne, 2000). She led the team in batting with a .425 average and her 146 total at-bats were just two shy of tying Diane Anderson for that school record (148, 1991). Velasquez had a team-high 13 doubles and tied with Angelica Lopez for the Lancers RBI title with 31 each. Lopez hit .378 with three home runs and added 10 doubles. Hernandez led the team in on-base percentage (.484) and batted .383 with a team-best 38 runs and 20 RBI. Flores batted .307 with 27 RBI and a team-leading 24 walks, and Howard batted .296 while pacing the team in stolen bases with 30. 

Tantlinger praised the playoff pitching of both Lopez and Wintercorn. Lopez hurled 10 innings and allowed just six hits but did not get a decision. Wintercorn gave up just seven hits in 8.2 innings of work. Wintercorn went 12-7 with a 2.32 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 117.2 innings. She had the lowest ERA and most strikeouts by a PCC pitcher since Jessica Stewart 12 years ago. Lopez went 8-5 with a 3.08 ERA and led the team in innings pitched with 120.1

Santiago Canyon (32-11) will go on to face South Coast Conference South Division champion El Camino in the next round.