How one Palomar softball player is trying to make the best of her last season
Story by Giovanni Vallido
The sun is shining down on a beautiful day. It’s 2 p.m. on a Thursday and Palomar’s softball team is at bat. The bases are loaded and there are two outs. Alyssa Domingo is watching from the dugout. This isn’t all too different for her, as she would normally be doing the same thing with her being a pitcher, not having to worry about batting. But it is a little different this time.
“So, I had a lump on my upper right abdominal,” Domingo said from the bleachers behind home plate.
In late 2021, Domingo went to the doctors to get it checked out. “And they said they didn’t know what it was, they kept running tests on it, and they found out it could possibly be cancerous.”
Domingo has played softball since she was 6 years old and “was not very good,” she remarked. But she loved the environment and variety of the game. When she was 11, her dad pushed her to become a pitcher. “For softball, it was kind of hard on me as a pitcher because I’m smaller and usually pitchers are tall and fast. But I’m smaller and I don’t pitch as fast, so I had to figure out ways to set myself apart from everyone else,” said Domingo, who worked hard on being an accurate pitcher to make up for her size.
“…I guess you can call me an underdog. On teams that I’ve been on, they always put in the bigger, faster pitcher,” she said, but in high leverage situations, she would be put into the game. “I’m really thankful for that because they get to see my skill that I’ve been working on.”
Throughout middle school and high school, Domingo played travel ball, but once the high school season started, she was out there on varsity. She was a varsity player in all four years of her high school career at Westview High School near Rancho Penasquitos and was a starting pitcher and center fielder.
“Senior year of high school I was the team captain. We didn’t go far in CIF but each year was always a fun experience,” she said.
After her senior year, she continued to play travel ball, trying to find a college to commit to. The issue, however, was that many of the schools interested in her were on the East Coast, and Domingo wanted to stay in California. Then Palomar’s head softball coach Lacey Craft contacted her.
Craft has been coaching at Palomar since the spring of 2006 and became the head coach in 2010. “Alyssa came to us from Westview High school and she played on a team where she had to pitch, hit and play defense every inning of every game,” Craft said. “When she came to Palomar, she was able to develop as a pitcher and refine her skills since she could focus solely on her pitcher.”
Craft noted that even though Domingo only started eight games her freshman year, she became the team’s number one pitcher as a true freshman. “She worked really hard to develop a great off speed pitch in the fall, she had good command of her pitches and was very effective in the circle.”
Domingo praised Craft for doing so much for her and the team’s success. “She is dedicated, encouraging, and inspirational. She pays attention to every detail, and makes sure everyone is on the same page,” she said. “She comes to practice with a specific plan so there is always something to be working on. She has a very high softball IQ. She also emphasizes how we act on and off the field to positively represent Palomar. Even though she is our coach, she is also someone we can always trust and look to about our personal issues. Not enough can be said about Coach Lacey, but she is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”
Palomar’s softball team has a rich history. Former Head Coach and current Assistant Coach, Mark Eldridge, began the program in 1978 and led the team to 28 conference championships and three state community college titles. Under Craft, the team has won two state titles, 2013 and 2015, and was a runner-up in 2018 at the state tournament.
“I knew I wanted to play on a dedicated, hard working team like Palomar’s softball team,” Domingo said, which led her to join Palomar’s program.
Domingo played her freshman year in 2020, and the team was going strong with a 16-3 record. That season, Domingo had 13 appearances with five wins and two losses in eight starts. Pitching a little over 48 innings with an ERA of 2.01, Domingo was doing well. However, the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting and eventually ended their season early.
“…we were confident we were going to go far, but Covid came around and we’re forced to take a pause,” causing Domingo to lose the rest of her freshman season.
Like all Palomar students during the COVID lockdown, Domingo was stuck at home, taking classes online. She also did team workouts over Zoom. “It was such a weird experience. But we never gave up, in hopes to get a final year to play. My team has grown so much, especially out of the Covid situation. We are all dedicated and driven girls that want to show off our talent and skills to play the game we love,” said Domingo.
With the possibility of the lump in Domingo’s being cancerous, surgery had to be done to remove it. “But the first surgery didn’t remove all of it, so I had to go in again like five days later.” After two surgeries, Domingo had to take a few weeks off from softball to recover.
“I was kind of like stressed out because this is my third year and it’s my last final year to play softball here.” Domingo is majoring in Nursing and plans to transfer after this semester with plans on either attending Cal State San Marcos or San Diego State University. Her goal is to work as an outpatient.
“Recovery is going very smoothly and I am slowly getting back into competitive activity. I am extremely thankful my tumor scare came back benign.” Domingo can now focus on getting back into the game. Recovered from her surgery, Domingo wants to focus on her pitching. “I just want to be able to hit my spots and be able to perform for my team,” she said.
At the time of writing, the team has a 25-5 record, first in their conference and seventh in the state rankings. Domingo wants to help the team continue their success.