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Palomar Baseball Hits the Ground Running to start off 2024 Playoff Campaign.

Evan Langer launches a pitch in the Ninth inning. He would eventually end the inning with a strikeout, securing a win for the Comets. (Others in photo: Noah Lazuka, Evan Jaquez) Photo credit: Josh Miranda

SAN MARCOS — The Comets hit a home run in their decisive win against the College of the Canyons Cougars to begin their best-of-three playoff series.

The Palomar Baseball team enter the playoffs as the no. two seed after finishing their season 30-9. They face the 23 seed, the College of the Canyons Cougars, in a best-of-three series. The final score was 7-2.

The skies had cleared by the time the game began at 2 o’clock. The forecast for Friday was 70 degrees, but the glaring California sun made it feel closer to 80.

In the beginning, the crowd was relatively quiet, only giving a polite clap after each strike or catch.

One person who was engaged pitch after pitch was a woman cheering for the Cougars. She called each Canyons’ player by name, and the strong tan on her shoulders seemed to suggest this wasn’t her first time watching the Cougars play out in the sun. Her cheers added energy to the otherwise quiet atmosphere.

However, the Comets crowd’s silence could’ve been attributed to the game’s slow start rather than a lack of emotional investment. The first two innings had out after out. A strikeout here, a flyout there. But the game picked up in the third inning, and the energy picked up along with it.

Eric Van Valkenburg, a 6’1’’ right-handed freshman from Solana Beach, was the Comets’ starting pitcher. He allowed the first hit of the game to go to the Cougars. The Comets didn’t let anything come out of it with the next batter grounding out, ending the top half of the inning.

Then came the most eventful part of the day. Third baseman Luke Mathews singled off a ground ball that got past the Cougar’s third baseman despite his diving effort. After the next batter got out via flyout, shortstop Ian Halverson came up to bat. The Cougar pitcher, Joseph Jasso, threw a ball that the catcher couldn’t bring in cleanly. And as the catcher scrambled toward the pitch, Mathews was able to advance to second base. Halverson then took his fourth ball and walked.

Afterward, Jasso hit center fielder Elijah Cook with a pitch. The bases now all had a player on them.

By this point, the Cougar’s dugout became silent. They had been yelling out cheers and chants like TikTok sound “very good very nice,” but that all ceased once the bases became loaded. Before Jasso could throw his next pitch, the Canyons coach called a timeout and went to go speak with him.

One could only imagine what was said, but whatever it was, it didn’t work, as right fielder Colby Rafail hit a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing Mathews to score the first run of the day. Halverson and Cook also advanced to third and second base respectively.

After Rafail, second baseman Noah Lazuka doubled. Halverson and Cook both scored, bringing the game to 3-0 Comets. Catcher Makana Olaso came up next and was also hit by a pitch making him the second player to be hit that inning. But nothing came after, and the inning of terror finally ended for Jasso and the Canyons.

Jasso struggled in the fourth as well with another wild pitch allowing a runner to advance. Ultimately, it led to a RBI single by Halverson making the score 4-0 to end the inning.

The next score came in the next inning. Rafail was able to reach home base with the help of Olaso’s RBI double.

In the seventh inning, Olaso hit the ball hard down right field. The crowd gave a growing “oooh” as they watched it get closer and closer to the wall. Right when it looked like it was going to hit it, the ball sailed over. It was gone. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause. There was a man on base when Olaso homered, so in total, it brought in two runs. This made the game 7-0 Comets.

That would be the last the Comets scored in the game.

The Cougars managed to score a run in the eighth inning, and scored another in the ninth. However, sophomore Evan Langer, a right-handed pitcher, ended any hope of a miracle. He struck out Canyons’ last batter and ended the game with a triumphant sound of rubber hitting leather.

The final 7-2 score owes a lot to the Comets’ pitching. Valkenburg pitched 6 innings with 8 strikeouts and allowed only a single hit. Holden Carpenter, a left-handed sophomore, pitched 2 innings, keeping the Cougars at bay with a single run. And lastly, Langer closed the final inning allowing only a single run himself. Full stats can be found on the Palomar Athletics website.

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Palomar Baseball Hits the Ground Running to start off 2024 Playoff Campaign.