You wouldn't have guessed that Christy Alvarez had been in a season-long batting slump the way she hit the ball in the Southern California Regional Softball Tournament.
"I'm shocked. My hitting hasn't been all that great this year," Alvarez said Sunday after leading Rancho Santiago to a pair of victories over Palomar that advanced the Dons to the state junior college championship.
Alvarez, who batted .273 during the regular season, was 5 for 5 Sunday as the Dons repeated as Southern California champions by defeating the Comets, 5-1 and 13-0. In the four-game tournament, the freshman center fielder from Fountain Valley batted .857 with six hits, four sacrifices, four walks and eight RBIs.
"I've been in a slump all year, so I was really waiting for this tournament," she said. "It's really been down but I knew it would come around sooner or later."
The converted shortstop was 3 for 3 with three RBIs in a morning victory over the Comets and followed that with two triples and three RBIs in an afternoon romp that earned her Most Valuable Player honors.
Combine that with Kim Martin's strong pitching and Palomar, the tournament's second-seeded team, was simply no match for the Dons, the defending state champions.
Martin threw a five-hitter in the first game, striking out three and walking two. After Palomar earned a rematch by eliminating Cerritos from the double-elimination tournament, Martin came back to throw a seven-hit shutout for her 23rd victory of the year.
In three tournament victories, the right-handed sophomore gave up just one unearned run to lower her season earned-run average to 0.11.
"The defense played real well and the offense finally came around," Martin said. "We just played like a championship team."
That was evident in the third inning when Palomar loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of scratch singles and a walk. But Dons second baseman Lee Bladow threw Jill Rattinger out at the plate on a slow grounder and third baseman Laura Janzen snared a line drive down the line and doubled up Lisa Michels to end the Comets' only threat.
An inning later, Rancho Santiago scored nine runs on eight hits, three of them triples, to seal the Comets' fate.
Lorraine Kalehuawehe and Sandy Martinez each had two hits in that inning, during which the Dons sent 14 batters to the plate. Kalehuawehe finished with three hits, including a bases-loaded triple in the fourth, and four RBIs.
Rancho Santiago (39-5) had troubles offensively Saturday when it batted .152 and managed just four runs and nine hits in victories over Los Angeles Pierce and Chaffey. But against Palomar (31-10), the Dons had 21 hits and 18 runs, batting .500 against the Pacific Coast Conference champions.
"The difference was complacency," Dons Coach Jim Reach said. "We came in with an 11-0 record against teams in the tournament and we weren't ready to go Saturday. But we talked about it last night and the players came out smoking. They hit the hell out of the ball. It couldn't have come at a better time."