The women’s softball team and crowd’s spirit seemed optimistic at the commencement of the first of two games played in front of an audience since March 3, 2020. Approximately 25 of PCC’s fans packed into the tiny silver bleachers on the team’s side. The Lancers lost both legs against the Palomar City College Comets at Robinson Park Saturday, January 29, 2022. Palomar beat the PCC, 9-1 and 15-5.

The result did not discourage head coach Monica Tantlinger from believing in the Lancers in her eighth season. With 14 first-year students and two sophomores, the team is rebuilding but has everything they need to compete in the South Coast Conference.

“It’s important for me to put our kids in a position to play the toughest competition to prepare them for the conference,” Tantlinger said, explaining why the Lancers had a better hitting game in the second leg against the Comets. “Our main goal is to get to the postseason.”

According to Palomar’s athletics website, they finished the 2020 season first, with an overall record of 16-3 and 4-0 conference records. The Comets have won four state titles, winning as recently as 2015. One of the reasons Tantlinger wanted to face a team of Palomar’s pedigree is to increase PCC’s rating power index (RPI) so that it can get the team into the playoffs. The thinking behind this is that even if they lose to the better teams, it will help their strength of schedule in the long run.

During the first game pitcher, Illiana Cardenas relieved Kiley Kraft after the Comets went up 6-0 at the top of the 5th inning when asked about how she deals with the pressure and anxieties of playing a ranked team in Palomar.

“It’s stressful at the beginning because you’re going in with a lot of pressure,” Cardenas said. “But I clear my mind and think I have to do this for my team, and I run straight to it.”

Cardenas went on to throw 41 pitches. Her outing was promising with half of her pitches being called strikes.

Xavier Zamora/Courier
Lancer third base Priscilla Ortega attempts to tag Palomar’s Samarah Martinez during the Lancers double header loss against Palomar College on Saturday January 29, 2022. The Lancers face both Riverside and Bakersfield at home this friday.

In the second inning of the second leg, the Lancers answered the call and rallied back in the second game from a 4-1 score in the second inning. Gizelle Leyva hit a triple to right-center. Third baseman Priscilla Ortega followed that up with a ground out to score to tie Palomar 4-4. The team seemed to be warming up as Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” could be heard playing in the background. Palomar didn’t pull away until the fifth inning.

When asked about her mindset at the plate, Leyva explained, “I hate leading off. It’s a lot of pressure, once you’re in the box, you forget about it, and whatever happens, happens. I was crowding the plate for both games. The one I hit was an outside pitch. I normally don’t crowd the plate.”

Indeed, the team is just getting started. PCC hosted a doubleheader on February 4, taking a loss against Bakersfield 5-0. In the game against Riverside City College, first baseman Marcella Ordonez hit a single to left-center, allowing Leyva and Kimberly Dea to score, paving the road to a 0-6 score and their first 2022 season victory.

“We’re supposed to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat and surprise a few along the way,” Tantlinger said, explaining why she schedules the team against such high-caliber opponents.

On their journey to conference, the Lancer’s next challenge will be the El Camino Warriors at Robinson Park Tuesday, February 8. In the year of the tiger, the team as a whole looks determined to grind, leave it all on the field, and stand tall in the face of fierce competition.

Michael Leyva

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