The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
There’s an old saying in baseball — which holds just as much truth in softball — that all it takes is one pitch.
The College of San Mateo softball team proved that last weekend in the first round of the CCCAA Northern California playoffs against Shasta.
Down 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bulldogs were one strike away from being eliminated from the playoffs. In game one of the three-game series, Shasta won a nine-inning affair, 2-1. In game two, Shasta had built a 7-2 lead going in the game’s final frame.
But with their season on the line, the CSM bats came to life.
“I think we were just feeling it,” said Bulldogs coach Nicole Borg about her team heading into the seventh. “I never looked at them and thought, ‘They’re giving up,’ because they’ve never had that look. It was just a matter of, that last inning they said in their little huddle, ‘OK, this is it guys, it’s all or nothing now. Do we want to play another game or do we want to go home?’”
CSM chose the former.
Sammy Pacheco (Mills) led off with a single. But the following two hitters, Danielle Brenner (South San Francisco) and Trish Malespina (Burlingame) both made outs. With only one out left, Lindsay Handy (Hillsdale) singled Pacheco home to get the merry-go-round started. Callie Pacheco (Half Moon Bay) doubled home Handy. Annabel Hertz singled home Callie Pacheco. Morgan Elkins (Carlmont) singled Hertz to third, bringing up former Sequoia Cherokee Ashley Rincon.
In game one of the series against Shasta, Rincon had gone 0-3 with three strikeouts. And coming into her seventh inning at-bat, she was 1-for-3 against Shasta ace Kayla McConnell. Rincon hit .338 this season with three home runs and 26 runs batted in and with the count 1-2, she chose the best possible moment to hit her fourth home run of the year — depositing the ball over the left-center field fence for the improbable and dramatic walk-off victory.
“I’m so happy for Ashley,” Borg said. “She is do deserving of being that person that comes through in big situations. She is the epitomy of a Bulldog. She’s by far one of the best people I have ever coached. I’m really happy for her.”
The white-hot offensive momentum carried over to the third game of the series. Led by Callie Pacheco on the mound, CSM stormed past Shasta 11-2, scoring six runs in the bottom half of the first inning to totally deflate the host team.
The Bulldogs pounded out 12 hits in the game, with Alyssa Jepsen and Malaspina going deep in the contest. Callie Pacheco picked up two wins in the series.
“My message to them was, one, what are you guys trying to do, give me gray hair?,” Borg said. “And two, listen, they’re completely deflated right now. They have no idea what just hit them. So, just like when you’re in a fight, you don’t let the other person back up until you win. I told them we have to keep coming, keep the gas pedal on and keep swinging like we just were.”
Next up for CSM will be the Goliath known as San Joaquin Delta College. SJDC has yet to taste defeat this season with a perfect 39-0 record. San Joaquin posted a 0.92 ERA this season and only allowed 40 runs, 31 of which were earned. Its ace is Katie Cotta, who went 25-0 with a 0.44 ERA and 351 strikeouts in 172 innings pitched.
It’ll be a tall order for the women from San Mateo. But stranger things have happened.
“It’s been our overall mentally all year: it doesn’t matter who we play, if we play our best we can beat anybody. I think that’s what they believed (against Shasta),’ Borg said. “We know what to expect against Delta … it’s just a matter of having a good game plan going in and executing. You know, whatever happens, happens. At this point, it’s anybody’s ball game.”
CSM played SJDC earlier in the season and lost 2-1.