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Comets baseball and softball back to winning ways

BASEBALL

Palomar Baseball is already in full swing as the Comets look to repeat as Pacific Coast Athletic Conference (PCAC) champions for the second year in a row.

The Comets’ 2018 season saw them win the PCAC by two games before their season came to an end at the hands of Saddleback College. Their loss in round two of the Southern California Regional Tournament came off the tails of an exciting round one series win against College of the Canyons. The team won a cumulative 28 games to 17 losses, going 17-7 in conference play.

This year they have been chosen by the conference’s sports information directors as early favorites to win the conference again, garnering four first place votes out of six.

Outfeilder Matthew Ornelia bats in the fourth inning. He went 3 for 5 with two singles, one double, and one stolen base May 12, 2018. Krista Moore/ The Telescope

First-year head coach Ben Adams will be looking to repeat the successes so often associated with Palomar Baseball as he takes over for former head coach Buck Taylor, now Kansas State’s pitching coach. Adams had been a key member of Palomar’s coaching staff for 14 years before his elevation to the head coaching position.

As is the case with most community colleges, Palomar won’t be returning many key players in 2019, rostering 19 first year players and 16 second year players. Two of those second year players, Matt Ornelia and Mitchell Moralez, were named as honorable mentions to the All-PCAC team for their efforts in 2018.

Ornelia, an outfielder, posted a batting average of .327 and racked up 12 extra base hits across 43 games. His 55 hits were third on the team last year. The infielder Moralez appeared in 36 games with an on-base percentage of .345 to go along with nine doubles.

On the pitching side, right-handers Braden Olthoff and Everhett Hazelwood will return for their sophomore seasons. Olthoff was fourth on the team in innings pitched last season and was second in strikeouts with 47 in total. Hazelwood appeared in 17 games and was primarily used as a reliever. His 11.31 strikeouts per nine innings was second on last year’s squad to Olthoff’s 11.33 average.

With those four returners and a handful of promising first years, Palomar looks primed for success in 2019. It will likely to be a four team race for the conference title in 2019 with Southwestern, Grossmont, and Mesa the clear front runners with a chance of unseating Palomar.

The Comets opened the season on January 25 at Golden West where they swept the season series from the Rustlers. They will play Saddleback at home on February 15 and begin conference play February 26 at Grossmont.

SOFTBALLAfter a near perfect season Palomar’s Womens softball is back in full swing looking to claim the first place title after falling short last season.

The team finished second in the state behind Mt. San Antonio College, dropping the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship and finishing with a 41-6 record. The women were also ranked 14 in the final National Alliance of Two Year College Athletic Administration (NATYCAA).

Returning players Sarah fisher, Allie Hughen, and Kylie Pignone will be key in the success of the team according to coach Lacey Craft.

Returning sophomore Fisher was named MVP of the tournament and Player of the Year for both the conference and the State of California. The outfielder also earned the Outstanding Hitter award after batting a .613 over the five championship games. She led the state with a .594 batting average, seven doubles, three triples, 17 home runs and 77 runs batted last season. This season Fisher will be making the jump from the outfield to the hot corner.

Allie Hughen pitches in the fifth and final inning of Palomar’s game against Imperial Valley on Friday, April 20. Amanda Raines/The Telescope

In a previous interview Fisher said, “It feels like unfinished business.” in regards to placing second. “It’s mentally and physically demanding.” Allie Hughen, Comets’ closer and shortstop, added.

The Comets’ ace closer and all around utility play Allie Hughen held a 0.00 earned run average (ERA) through the entire regular season, 40 games, 48 innings. Hughen started the championship game, an unfamiliar role, and was tagged for 5 runs finishing the season with an ERA of 0.66.

The team is also welcoming a handful of new freshman players. Craft along with the rest of her coaching staff are eager to watch and help develop some of these young players into the championship team that has won five state titles.

The team’s next home game is Wednesday Feb. 22 against Mt. San Jacinto at 3 p.m. at the softball fields.

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