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CHULA VISTA — A shiny, white cowboy hat with a red letter F. A diving stop and eye-popping glove flip by second baseman Zoey Bautista. And the “perfect” ending to a historic season.
Fullerton’s softball team punctuated its turnaround story with plenty of color and flair Saturday in the CIF Southern California Regional Division III championship.
The Indians became the first Orange County squad to claim a title in the three-year event by defeating host Otay Ranch of Chula Vista 7-0.
Fullerton (26-7) sealed the victory as freshman ace Malaya Majam-Finch snagged a line drive back to the circle for the final out. Majam-Finch, the niece of softball legend Jennie Finch, quickly reached above her head to catch a smash off the bat of Ariele Torres, and fired the ball into the dirt as Fullerton’s dugout rushed toward its star pitcher to celebrate.
“It was just meant to be,” freshman shortstop Melia Vera said of play by Majam-Finch. “Malaya has been a big, huge part of this team. She impacted all of us. She brought us all together. … That ending is perfect.”
Fullerton, just two seasons removed from a 5-17 record, made the playoffs this spring for the first time since 2017, and promptly followed Majam-Finch to the CIF-SS Division 4 final. The Indians fell to Foothill 5-3 but stormed through the regional by defeating two reigning champions and Otay Ranch (24-8), which has won three straight titles in San Diego.
“We road (Majam-Finch’s) arm all year,” said second-year Fullerton coach Trevor Holton, who donned the cowboy hat for the long bus drive to Chula Vista “She got us here.”
But Holton quickly pointed out the support Majam-Finch received offensively and defensively en route to her two-hit shutout with five strikeouts.
Vera and junior outfielder Ava Paquin each had three hits and three RBIs to pace an offense that scored twice in the fourth and four in the fifth.
Bautista ended the third by making a diving stop on a grounder up the middle before flipping the ball from her glove to Vera for the force out at second.
In the sixth, Vera ranged into the hole to stop another grounder while on one knee, and then fired to Hailee Nelson at first for the out.
“(Majam-Finch) is terrific but it’s not all her,” Holton said. “Our middle (infielders) were incredible.”
Fullerton features only two seniors in Nelson and Alyssandra Mejia, who came off the bench to single. Both marveled at their program’s turnaround season.
“It’s just amazing how much this program has changed,” Nelson said. “The coaching perspective, the coaching methods, the community and energy shift, it’s very nice. I consider all these girls my family.”
“We’ve all grown as a team together,” Mejia added. “We won state. It’s crazy.”