PASADENA - The situation looked bleak. Bases loaded, no outs in the top of the seventh inning, and the Pasadena City College softball team holding on to a 1-run lead. That's what Lancers pitcher Austyn Helmuth faced in a relief role Thursday. Helmuth, though, kept her poise, struck out one hitter, then got the next to hit into a game-ending, pop-up double play with shortstop Danielle Ruiz doubling off the runner on second with a quick throw to second baseman Ahylie Rosales.
Helmuth's magic act save sealed the Lancers 2-1 win over visiting Cerritos College and kept PCC's South Coast Conference record perfect at 3-0, evening their overall mark to 3-3. Starting and winning pitcher Elena Bahnimtewa (2-0) hurled six innings of 4-hit ball with two walks and two strikeouts.
Ruiz produced the game-winning RBI in the fifth with a line-shot double that landed just inside the left field line. The hit scored leadoff hitter Samantha Diaz, who reached on an error and stole second. Diaz scored both of PCC's runs. She also got aboard in the bottom of the first on a ground ball error and stole second. After Olivia Nanez singled her to third, Lancers head coach Monica Tantlinger created the game's first run by sending Nanez to force a throw to second that allowed Diaz to race home safely. Nanez was caught stealing on the play but PCC had its 1-0 lead.
Cerritos (3-2, 0-2) tied it at 1-1 in the second on a RBI single by Aliyah Velasquez. In that inning, Bahnimtewa got some help from her defense to keep it 1-1. With runners on first and third, the Falcons bunted but PCC third baseman Valley Febles made a nifty fielder's choice toss to catcher Melony Hernandez, ending a run-scoring threat and the inning.
At least for the time being, PCC is in first place in the SCC as other teams have not played three conference games, including 2-time defending state champ Mt. San Antonio, now 6-0 overall and 1-0 in South Coast play. The Lancers have outscored their conference opponents, 30-2, in their three wins.
Pasadena plays a non-conference doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 8 at Cypress College. The Lancers play the Chargers at 10 a.m., then face San Diego Mesa in a 12 noon contest.
(Robert Lewis, Pasadena City College Athletics)