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Former Cougars pitcher hits stride with Comets

05/21/2016, 3:00pm PDT
By John Maffei

‘Late bloomer’ ready to take her game to a four-year college

Palomar’s Summer Evans was 34-7 this spring with a 1.55 ERA in 222 innings.

Lacey Craft went to Escondido High to scout a pitcher with a big reputation.

What the Palomar College softball coach said she saw was a “petite young lady.”

“But she had control, she could pitch, and she competed like crazy,” Craft said of Summer Evans, who is maybe 5-feet-4.

“We were convinced someone was going to get her, but because she was small, she was off the four-year college radar.

“We got lucky and got her.”

Evans, who was only 12-7 with a 2.03 ERA as a senior in high school, finished her two years at Palomar with a 63-11 record.

She led the Comets to a state championship last year, finishing the season 29-4 with a 0.84 ERA, working 200 innings.

She was 34-7 this spring with a 1.55 ERA in 222 innings, but Palomar fell a step short of the state finals, losing to Cypress in the finals of the Southern California Regionals.

After an opening-round loss in the regionals, Evans and the Comets won twice as Evans didn’t allow an earned run over 14 innings.

The dream of back-to-back state titles was shattered the next day with top-ranked Cypress pushing across a run in the bottom of the seventh to win 3-2 and eliminate the Comets.

“I didn’t think I could be a starting pitcher when I came to Palomar,” Evans said. “I was super quiet. I was just trying to fit in.”

Craft, though, saw something in Evans that she didn’t see in herself.

“Palomar is a second chance for a lot of players,” said Craft, who played at Valley Center High, Palomar and then starred at San Diego State.

“There are a million reasons not to come here, to just give up the game. We look for the girls who are late bloomers.

“I was that kid. I was confident Summer could succeed.”

Evans had never seen the Comets play when she stepped on campus.

She knew, however, the program was good — five state championships, 33 conference titles, 32 All-Americans and 104 NCAA Division I scholarship players.

“Palomar was a whole different commitment level from high school,” said Evans, who is waiting to hear on four-year scholarship offers.

“The coaches pushed a lot harder. They showed me I had a lot of potential.”

Last year, Evans was a screwball, change-up pitcher.

This season, as Evans faced teams for the fourth, fifth and sixth time, she had to mix in a curve and rise ball.

“Summer was really easy to catch,” said Comets freshman catcher Bailey Romano, who starred at La Costa Canyon.

“She hits her spots. Really, I didn’t even have to move my glove on most pitches. She was in charge. She knew our success depended on her. But she stayed relaxed.”

Evans isn’t a big strikeout pitcher.

She relied heavily on a defense that included first baseman Katy McJunkin (a transfer from Purdue), second baseman Brienna Dunckel (Valley Center), shortstop Brooke Huddleson (Mission Hills), third baseman Iesha Hill (Carlsbad) and outfielders Taylour Fa’asua (Oceanside), Taylor Willis (Murrieta Mesa) and Tayler Moore (Chaparral).

“I don’t pitch to my defense, I just pitch,” Evans said. “Bailey put down the sign, and I threw it.

“Lacey positions the fielders, and they always seemed to be in the right spot.”

Now Evans and Romano are sure Craft and assistant coach Mark Eldridge will help them move on.

“I was lazy coming out of high school, didn’t pursue four-year schools,” Romano said. “Every girl on this team is confident Lacey and Mark will help us get to the four-year level.”

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