East County Sports

Top-seeded Scotties advance in playoffs



By Tyler Gribble
Special to East County Sports

LA MESA – Following their play-in-game victory over Mt. Carmel on Tuesday, the Hilltop Lancers hit the road to take on top-seed Helix Highlanders in round one of the CIFSDS Division II playoffs. The game unfolded into something of a pitcher’s duel, with a combined five hits and one run through the first five innings. ALEXIA REYES got the start for Hilltop while SOPHIA RAMUNO pitched for Helix, as Helix advanced with a 3-1 victory.

The first offensive action of the game came in the second inning, when Hilltop catcher LILY HERMOSILLO hit a towering shot over the left-center fence for a solo home run, giving the Lancers the early lead.

Helix threatened in the bottom of the third as first baseman AMBER YOUNG lifted a single into left-center and designated player LILLY WHITE battled to a nine-pitch walk.

With runners on first and second, no outs, and the top of the lineup due to bat, the Highlanders were in prime position to score. However, shortstop AUDREY KULL lined a pitch right at the third baseman for an out, and YOUNG got caught too far off of second as NATALIE ALVAREZ fired to the second baseman, turning a 5-4 double play.

The next batter popped up and the prime scoring opportunity for the Highlanders was wasted.

The Highlanders threatened again in the fourth, as catcher ISABELLA BORDINE and first baseman JOLENE GILES walked to lead things off, and third baseman NICOLE HERNANDEZ laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance them both.

The Lancers navigated the threat with no harm done, inducing an infield popup followed strikeout to end the inning.

Heading into the bottom of the sixth and with scoring opportunities dwindling, Bordine came to the plate to lead things off. Thanks to the unusual scheduling of the season, the Highlander catcher, along with the rest of Helix’s Class of 2021, are technically seniors no more, as the school’s graduation ceremonies took place six days before this game was scheduled to be played.

Determined to make the swan song of her high school softball career something worth remembering, Bordine crushed the first pitch she saw into center field, tying the game 1-1 and reinvigorating her team. Another pair of seniors followed, as JOLENE GILES and NICOLE HERNANDEZ both drew walks.

With the go-ahead run in scoring position, DANIKA MUNOZ came to the plate and laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners. Another pinch hitter, MAGGIE JENKINS, then stepped in and took a pitch off of the foot to load the bases. AMBER YOUNG, owner of one of her teams’ three hits on the day, battled to a full count walk to score Giles and give Helix their first lead of the day. LILLY WHITE dug in and drew a full-count walk of her own to bring in the insurance run.

With one out, Kull then stepped in and lined a ball a bit to the left of second base, where Lancer shortstop SOFIA VEGA made a brilliant diving catch to steal the hit, then flipped the ball to second to turn the double play and end the inning.

With a 3-1 lead, RAMUNO and the Highlanders returned to the field to attempt to close things down. The first batter hit a sinking liner into right where right fielder KORI JONILONIS made a diving catch for the first out. The next batter flew out to right, and the final batter hit a chopper to short, fielded by Kull for the final out of the game.

RAMUNO ended the complete-game victory having struck out six, while allowing three hits and two walks, with the only run coming via a home run.

Reyes was saddled with the loss, finishing with three strikeouts, five walks, three hits allowed, and two earned runs. ALEXA ZUMSTEIN pitched a third of an inning for the Lancers, allowing an earned run and walking three batters.

With the win, the Highlanders look to Friday, when they will play against league rival Steele Canyon for the third time this season. Meanwhile, thanks to the double-elimination format of the playoff tournament, Hilltop will take on the Del Norte Nighthawks in a win-or-go-home contest.


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