It wasn’t the start that Highland coach Jackie Puente wanted to see from her team, but a slow start might have been expected following a 300-mile trip for Saturday’s Southern California Division IV Softball Regional championship game.
The Scots committed three errors and were held to just one run in the first three innings in falling behind 3-1 to top-seeded Holtville.
But Highland responded with a gritty performance, rallying to take the lead in the fifth before holding for a 4-3 victory to capture the school’s first regional softball title.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Puente said. “They started off a little sluggish, but they fought and they came back and did what they needed to do. They wanted another ring, they wanted a (SoCal regional) title and they made sure they got it this time.”
The Scots (21-4), which combined to outscore their six playoff opponents 81-5, opened the scoring when Marissa Campos launched a two-out home run in the first inning, her fourth of the season. Campos was 2 for 3 in the game and finished the year batting .515 with 27 RBIs.
But the Vikings (21-5) capitalized on a pair of errors to tie the game in their half of the first and then added two more in the third to take control of the game.
“We don’t have many errors and for (pitcher Briana) Solis to have two errors and then my left fielder to start with one … you know what I’m saying?” Puente said. “They were just easy outs. I think it was just adrenaline on them and I had to calm them down and say, ‘it’s just a game, play your game, and we’ll win it.’ And they adjusted and they finally calmed down and went for the win.”
Trailing 3-1, the Scots narrowed the gap in the fourth with a one-out single by Lucia Jano, who moved to second on a ground out by Jennifer Padilla and scored on a double by Chloe Garcia to make it 3-2. Jano was 2 for 3.
Solis (10-1), who overcame a rough start to pitch a complete game, allowed seven hits, but held Holtville scoreless the final four innings as her team mounted its comeback.
“These girls are just going to fight and fight,” Puente said. “They’re going to keep working hard next year and the year’s to come. And this makes my program great. It’s going to make girls want to come to Highland, want to come to the east side.”
The Scots sent eight batters to the plate during the decisive fifth inning.
Sadie Salas reached on a one-out single, was sacrificed to second by Solis, and eventually scored as Highland collected back-to-back hits from Campos and Alexia Castro to tie the game at 3-3. Campos scored the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice grounder by Padilla to take the lead for good. Castro was 2 for 4.
“It’s mixed emotions because I’m hugging my seniors,” Puente said. “That’s their last day on the field for high school, and they went out with a bang. And then my underclassmen, which is going to carry this team next year, and it’s going to be even stronger."