The San Marcos softball team has gotten used to long bus rides.
After making trips to Montebello and Hemet in the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs, the Royals traveled to Beaumont for a semifinal game on Tuesday and jumped on the opponents for three runs in the top of the first inning. They added a fourth run in the sixth to support the solid pitching of Hailee Rios in a 4-2 victory.
The Royals advance to a CIF championship showdown against Channel League rival, unbeaten and top-seeded Buena on either Friday or Saturday. Buena (26-0-1) swept the three league games en route to winning the league title.
San Marcos, which banged out 12 hits in the game, sent seven batters to the plate in the first inning. Aliyah Huerta-Leipner led off with a walk and Savannah Tait followed with a single to right field, moving Huerta-Leipner to third. One out later, Hailey Fryklund singled to right field, bringing home Huerta-Leipner. An infield ground out by Morgan Jensen scored Tait and Claire Early singled to score Fryklund for the third run of the inning.
Julia Shepherd belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to make a 3-2 game. The Cougars loaded the bases in the second, but Rios pitched out of the jam and went on to retire the next 12 batters.
San Marcos (23-7) put runners on base every inning and scored its fourth run in the sixth inning. Megan Cunnison led off with a single, moved to second a bunt single by Michelle Henderson, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on Rios single.
Eight Royals had hits in the game. Freshman Claire Early led the way, going 3-for-4 with a RBI; Fryklund was 2-4 with a RBI and a run scored and Tait was 2-4 with a run.
Rios struck out seven, allowed six hits, one walk and two earned runs in a complete-game victory.
“This was a complete team effort, with eight different players recording at least one hit,” San Marcos coach Jeff Swann said. “Defensively, the team provided several superb defensive plays to back up some excellent pitching by Hailee Rios.”
Beaumont threatened in the seventh, putting runners at second and first with one out. But Rios came through in the clutch, getting the next two hitters on a pop up and a ground out to send the Royals on the road again for the championship game.