The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
To say the College of San Mateo softball team is on a roll would be an understatement.
Heading into Thursday’s home game against San Jose City College, the Bulldogs had won 11 straight games and had shut out all five of their Coast Conference opponents.
The Bulldogs ran their streak to an even dozen wins, but for the first time in while, they had to fight to the very end for a 7-5 victory.
“We played well the first five innings,” said CSM coach Nicole Borg. “As soon as something went wrong, they (the Bulldogs) hung their heads.”
Borg said she was proud, however, to see her battle through adversity for the first time in about a month. CSM (6-0 Coast Conference, 18-5 overall) took a 5-0 lead in the third inning and, based on previous experience, the Bulldogs should have cruised to the victory.
The Jaguars, however, weren’t willing to just give the win to the Bulldogs. After CSM starter Alyssa Jepsen held San Jose hitless through the first three innings, the Jaguars broke up the no-hitter with a single in the fourth and broke up the shutout by pushing across a run in the fifth on a double and a infield hit. The Jaguars added three more runs in the sixth on three hits and a CSM error, and suddenly San Jose was down just 5-4 with tying run at second.
Jepsen got a popout to shortstop to end the threat.
During the inning, Borg went to the pitcher’s circle and called in the infield for a little chat.
“I don’t like going out to the circle,” Borg said. “I just went out there and calmed them down.”
The Bulldogs responded to San Jose’s three-run sixth with two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame when Danielle Brenner launched a two-run homer over the fence in left-center field to put the Bulldogs up 7-4.
Those were big insurance runs because the Jaguars scored one last time in the top of the seventh, but would get no closer.
“Brenner’s home run was huge,” Borg said.
Borg didn’t believe her team is overconfident and credits San Jose for making the offensive adjustments to climb back into the game.
It would be hard to blame the Bulldogs for thinking the game was in the bag after scoring five runs in the third inning. The Jaguars didn’t help themselves by committing two errors in the inning.
CSM did plenty of damage itself in the third, banging out four hits and putting pressure on the defense with aggressive base running. The Bulldogs sent nine batters to the plate in the inning with Lindsay Handy, Morgan Elkins and Annabel Hertz all driving in a run.
Handy, who came into the game batting .424 on the season, was on fire Thursday, going 3 for 3 at the plate with a double, while playing flawlessly at shortstop. She robbed the Jaguars of a pair of hits in the first inning — first with the catch of a shoe-top high ball and then diving full out to her left to stop a ball from going into left field. She even got a forceout at second by shoveling the ball, from her belly, to second baseman Callie Pacheco, who narrowly missed doubling up the runner at first.
“Lindsay Handy is just awesome,” Borg said. “She is so coachable. She makes adjustments.”
Despite finally playing a close game, there was never any panic from the Bulldogs. They are at the point of the season where they know they are a good team and they will be difficult to beat as long as they play their game.
“They’re in a zone right now,” Borg said of her team. “They know what they have to do. They want to win a conference championship.
“Now, it’s about playing seven innings instead of five.”