They played a great season and fought a good fight. The Pomona Panthers Varsity Softball team made it all the way to the finals for the Colorado 5A State Championship Sunday, October 25th, but after playing their semi-final game that went extra innings and a 15 minute rest, they just did not have the strength to finish and the Mountain Range Mustangs came out on top and became the Colorado 5A State Champions with a score of 12-2.
But getting to this game was a great accomplishment with a team that came into the state tournament ranked at No.14. A lot of people counted them out and guessed that they would last a game or two. Not so, the Pomona Panthers had come a long way and had a lot to prove. These girls knew that they belonged in this tournament and that they had a real shot at taking the entire tournament.
The first game of the day for the semi-finals pitted the Pomona Panthers against Ft. Collins Fossil Ridge Sabercats who brought with them some very good players and very strong bats. Pomona Panthers took an early lead and held that lead until the fifth inning. It was this inning that Pomona Panthers second base Jessica Espinoza made a tremendous double play. With a Fossil Ridge player on first base, the batter hit a hard ball towards first base. It looked as though the ball would go past first base and in the open making a very easy run down the first base line and advancing the runner to second base. Rebekkah Whithouse, who plays first base for Pomona Panthers made a quick adjustment to stop the ball. Rebekkah got part of her glove on the ball, which caused the ball to pop up. Jessica Espinoza who plays second base, followed in as a backup and was there to grab the pop up and run back to first base to get two outs. The third out came quickly after that. The momentum was now swinging in favor of the Pomona Panthers. But the Fossil Ridge Sabercats were not ready to end so soon. They came out their next at bats and started a short rally. The Sabercats went ahead of the Panthers and now Pomona Panthers found themselves in a spot where their season was coming to an end quickly. Fossil Ridge Sabercats were starting to put together a drive that saw them moving on. With runners at first and second, Pomona Panthers walked the next batter to load the bases. This turned out to be a big mistake. Instead of a forced out, Sabercats went yard and had a grand slam. Fossil Ridge was now ahead by a score of 7-6. Pomona had one more chance to create magic. Three outs away from ending the season for Pomona Panther and now Fossil Ridge had a few errors which Pomona was able to use for their benefit and they were able to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
In the eighth inning, Fossil Ridge once again found themselves not wanting their season to end. They had gotten two outs and were trying to make that final out and get their turn at bat again. The momentum now had swung in favor of Fossil Ridge as they had two quick outs and two strikes on the next batter. But Pomona stayed focused and knew that the final pitch had not crossed the plate. Here came the wind up and the final pitch was delivered. It was thrown right down the strike line and traveling extremely fast. The crack of the bat sent the ball over the fence and Pomona was now ahead of the game. With two outs, Pomona Panthers scored an unanswered six points. The Pomona Panthers are now in the lead by a score of 13-7. Now it was up to the Fossil Ridge Sabercats to keep their season alive. Lexie Kimminau pitched a great game but was in need of relief and rest her arm. A pitching substitution was made and Jessica Espinoza was now on the mound and needed to perform. The Sabercats, not wanting to see their season end now had to once again step it up. They gave it a great run and came close as they put up four runs but came up short in the end. Pomona was advancing to the finals by beating the Sabercats 13-11.
After a rest of just 15 minutes, the Pomona Panthers headed to the State Championship Finals and face the Mountain Range Mustangs. With Lexie Kimminau back on the mound, Pomona would go five innings without the Mustangs scoring. Pomona had taken a lead of 2-0 in the fifth. The No.14th seeded team was about to make a great season turn into a fantastic dream come true season. Fatigue started to set in and the errors were starting to take its toll. Once again after fighting a hard battle, Lexie was exhausted and needed to be given a break. Jessica Espinoza came in to pitch the remainder of the game.
Jessica threw some amazing strikes but with the Front Range Mustangs having a 45 minute rest between their first game and the final game, this proved to the caveat that helped power them past the Pomona Panthers and become the State Champions.
Yes the Pomona Panthers girls softball did something that a lot of coaches and sports writers said could not be done. No one predicted Pomona Panthers to go this far with their season. The Colorado 5A State Runner-Ups Pomona Panthers have proved that they are a team that will not go away lightly. Next year will be a different season and the challenges will always be there, but don’t ever count these girls out of a winning season. This season they came took second in State, but next year, the story could have a much happier ending.