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Softball

San Marcos Fights Back From 7-3 Deficit, Beats Chaffey in 8 Innings, 8-7

Megan Cunnison singles on a 3-2 pitch with bases loaded for the game-winning run

San Marcos softball wins in 8th inning over Chaffey Click to view larger
San Marcos players mob Megan Cunnison (24) after she singled with the bases loaded to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. (Phil Alliano photo)

Hitting has been the strength of the San Marcos softball team this season, and the Royals needed all the hits they could muster to make up a four-run deficit in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s CIF-SS Division 4 second-round softball playoff game against Chaffey.

San Marcos came through in the clutch. It scored four runs on four hits in the seventh to tie the score and got two walks and a pair of hits, including a game-winner from Megan Cunnison in the bottom of the eighth, to pull out a dramatic 8-7 victory.

The Royals advance to a quarterfinal game at home against San Dimas on Thursday. San Dimas upset top-seeded Downey.

“I think it’s more of the mindset of, ‘Yay, I can do this. If my teammate can do it, I can do it,” said San Marcos senior pitcher Aliyah Huerta-Leipiner of the late-game hitting. She singled in the tying run with two outs in the seventh inning. “I think that’s kind of what happened throughout our lineup  It was really cool to see the entire lineup up come up clutch throughout the entire last part of the game.”

San Marcos coach Jeff Swann said the late-game hitting surge was a matter of his players keeping things simple at the plate.

“We just tried to keep it simple for them — one hit at a time, one pitch at a time; keep it small and don’t feel like you have to do it all in one swing,” he said. “I think all the hitters did that in that one big inning when we scored four runs to tie it up.”

The Royals had 11 hits in the game. Savannah Tait went 3 for 4 with a double to lead the way. Cunnison had two hits, including a double.

Cunnison was confident her team would come back from the 7-3 deficit. 

“I didn’t doubt us because I knew we could come back, but it was little nerve-racking. Our team was able to pull it together,” she said.

Cunnison noted that everyone on the team was engaged

“A big thing for us was everyone was on the fence and cheering to keep the energy up in the dugout, which really helps when you go up to bat,” she said.

Chaffey got a solo homer from Angelica Reyes in the second inning and scored twice in the fourth on a Ronni Eastburn double and RBI singles by Jessika Gomez and Adrianna Gomez to go up 3-0.

San Marcos tied the score in the bottom of the fourth on a three-run homer to left by Allie Fryklund.

Chaffey then capitalized on some misplayed balls by the San Marcos defense and erupted for four runs in the sixth to go ahead 7-3.

At that point, the Tigers appeared to be in the driver’s seat behind pitcher Katie Eastburn.

But the Royals kept their cool and relied on what’s made them so successful this season — good hitting.

Claire Early started the seventh-inning comeback by drawing a lead-off walk. Following a pop out to shortstop, Kyla Robbins singled to right field and Early went to third. She scored on a passed ball to make 7-4. 

Cunnison whacked a ground-rule double to drive in Robbins and Tait followed with a single to score Cunnison, cutting the deficit to 7-6. The Royals tied the score on a RBI single by Huerta-Leipner.

"It was like, 'I'm not going to cry yet,'" Huerta-Leipner said of her game-tying hit. "I was really excited. But we couldn't stop, we had to keep going."

Chaffey’s Jessika Gomez, who went 3 for 4 with a homer, two singles and two RBI, singled off Huerta-Leipner with one out in the eighth and reached second on a sacrifice. But the Boston University-bound Royal got the next batter on a comebacker to end the inning.

In the bottom of the eighth, Early hit a one-out single to left and advanced to third on a pair of passed balls with Paige Powell at the plate. Powell eventually drew a walk and Chaffey replaced Eastburn with Jessika Gomez.

Robbins was issued an intentional walk to load the bases before Gomez fanned the next San Marcos batter for the second out of the inning.

That brought up Cunnison, who took the count to 3-2 before hitting a fly into left field. Chaffey outfielder Adrianna Gomez lost the ball in the sun and it went over her head for the walk-off hit. 

Cunnison showed good discipline at the plate as a couple of pitches were just off the outside corner of the plate.

“They were definitely close, but I was waiting for one that was there and once I saw it I was ready,” she said. 

The Royals rushed the field and mobbed Cunnison after her game-winning hit.

Swann was happy to see Cunnison rewarded for her perseverance. She struck out in her first three at-bats.

“She struggled in her first couple of at bats,” Swann said. “This is a great game to teach you to never give up, to persevere; it teaches you to fail. You’re going to fail, you just got to forget about it, put it in the past and keep working. And she did that. 

“She got the double and the game winner. It was just awesome. She is one of our best competitors. That’s why I love having her at leadoff, she’s going to compete on every pitch.”

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