(Walnut, CA) The Mt. SAC Softball Team came from behind in the final game of the season for the biggest win of sixth-year head coach Ruby Rojas' career with a 5-4 victory over Palomar in the California Community College Athletic Association Championship Sunday afternoon before a packed house at the Mounties' home stadium.
The victory was the programs' fifth and coach Ruby Rojas' first. The Mounties (41-7) won titles in 2003, '05, '07 and '09. This was coach Rojas third title game and it couldn't have been scripted any better.
Shortly after a walk-off, title-game victory by Cypress College over Mt. SAC last year, Rojas told her team they would be back and win.
The CCCAA awarded Mt. SAC as the championship tournament venue and Rojas envisioned a perfect ending for her team.
"Gosh, it means everything to me, I've been waiting for this moment and this was the team it was meant to be," Rojas said. "What better way and place to do it than in your home stadium."
"It's all about being your best that day, that's all that matters."
The big hit in the game came from freshman right fielder Vicky Gutierrez (1 for 3, R, 3 RBIs, HR) in the sixth inning with the Mounties trailing 4-2.
With left fielder Candace Haliburton (1 for 2, R) and tournament MVP Michelle Santiago on second and third, Gutierrez connected with a three-run home run to left field for the 5-4 lead. It was the third homerun by Gutierrez in the post season.
"It's such an incredible feeling, it's surreal," Gutierrez said. "With me being 0-2 coming into that at bat, my team still had my back."
In addition, perhaps the story of the day was the perfect ending for sophomore pitcher Jessica Olvera.
Olvera (10-1) sat out last season due to injury and did not pitch in as many games this year as her first year (2016), but has been ready when called upon.
Mt. SAC freshman starter Briana Wheeler, who recorded 26 victories this season, including seven in the playoffs, was relieved by Olvera to start the sixth inning, trailing 4-2. Wheeler gave up a three-run home run in the top of the fifth inning.
Olvera gave up two singles but shortstop Felix made a running catch of a popup in short left and doubled up the runner at third. That was followed by a strikeout looking and the momentum had shifted to Mt. SAC heading into the seventh inning.
"After that double play at third it really changed the momentum," said freshman third baseman Ciara Granado. "For Jess to come in and do her job was big for her and the team."
"I'm so happy. It's a great feeling and I can't wait for next year."
After the home run by Gutierrez that gave the Mounties the 5-4 lead in the bottom half of the inning, Olvera finished off Palomar (41-5) in the seventh.
She retired the side in order, with the last out a grounder to Olvera, who threw to first to start the celebration.
"Three years here and I've been waiting for that moment, there are no words to describe it," Olvera said. "I was being patient and waiting for this moment and it happened."
Earlier in the game with the score tied 1-1 in the third inning, Santiago (1 for 1, R, RBI, Sac Fly) hit a sacrifice fly to left field for the 2-1 lead, scoring Felina (2 for 2, R, Sac), who singled to open the inning.
"Later in the game when we were down 4-2, I knew we were going to come back, no matter what," Santiago said. "I never doubted us."
"I never imagined that a year ago I would be standing here as MVP. I would not even be standing here without my teammates and without coach Ruby, especially. She had my back throughout this whole time. I think losing my uncle this past year really shaped me into a better person."
"I definitely did not picture it like this and wouldn't want it any other way to be honest," Santiago added. "It's amazing."
One big reason for the Mounties success this year was the play of Felix, who was the leadoff batter and offensive leader.
Felix opened the championship game with a single, as she has been doing all year.
"This year we just clutched at the right time," said Felix, who led the team in most of the offensive categories. "Right after our few losses, I think we really came together."
Felix was referring to a stretch midway through the season when they loss three consecutive games.
"We had a lot of talent this year and it all fell into place. We were home for the regionals, super-regional and championship and all of the stars were aligned for us, really."
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For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.