The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The College of San Mateo softball team has been one of the best in the Coast Conference since coach Nicole Borg took over the program six years ago.
The one thing missing, however, was an outright Coast Conference championship. The Bulldogs shared the crown with Ohlone-Fremont in 2005 and 2007 but had never stood alone at the top.
Until Thursday. Needing one win in their final two games, the host Bulldogs made sure nothing but pride is on the line next Tuesday against Ohlone as CSM blasted visiting Chabot-Hayward 14-0 in a game that was called after five innings due to the mercy rule.
“It feels amazing. What a great day,” Borg said.
The win was the 20th in a row for CSM (16-1 Coast Conference, 36-3 overall), while starting pitcher Michele Pilster picked up her 26th win of the season, pitching three perfect innings with six strikeouts.
“We’ve worked so hard since summer. We’re like a family,” Pilster said. “I was a little more pumped for this start. We didn’t want to be co-champs.”
Amelia Shales pitched a perfect fourth inning, with Ashley Miller finishing things up in the fifth. Miller retired the first batter she faced, but walked the next one to lose the perfect game. Two batters later, the Gladiators broke up the no-hit bid.
“Ash hasn’t been out there for a long time,” Borg said.
But to be disappointed with missing out on a no hitter would just be selfish because the Bulldogs did just about everything else to perfection. Seven different Bulldogs drove in a run, eight players had at least one hit and they stole eight bases, including four in the first inning alone.
“It’s what we expected to do,” said CSM shortstop Lindsay Handy, who had two hits and drove in four runs. “We just took it inning by inning.”
CSM wasted little time in taking a commanding lead, scoring four times in the bottom of the first. Selina Rodriguez led off the inning by reaching on an error and promptly stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Jamie Navarro followed with a walk and swiped second. A Handy groundout chased home Rodriguez with the first run of the game. Later, an Annabel Hertz infield hit drove in Navarro and, with runners in scoring position, Jen Davidson drove both home with a single to right.
There was no looking back after that for the Bulldogs.
“[Hitting] the ball hard and [running] the bases well sets the tone for the game,” Borg said.
The Bulldogs scored “only” two runs in the second with Handy picking up RBI two and three on the day with a two-run single to left. Kaylin Stewart led off the inning with a double and Rodriguez had an infield hit and stole her second base of the game.
She finished with three steals.
CSM sent eight batters to the plate in the third inning, with half of them scoring. Navarro drove in a run with an infield hit, Handy drove in her fourth run of the game and Stewart also drove in a run to give the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead after three innings.
The Bulldogs put the icing on the cake with a four-run fourth, batting around in the process. They loaded the bases with no outs before Katie Tam hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Mary Ganal. Rodriguez picked up her first RBI of the day on a single to left and then both Ganal and Davidson scored on Chabot errors.
When Rodriguez caught a line drive for the final out of the game in the top of the fifth, there was no big celebration. The Bulldogs congratulated each other on the win, but there was a matter-of-factness surrounding the team, an air that suggests the Bulldogs have bigger fish to fry.
“I think that’s just us. We celebrate together with each other. No need to rub it in the other team’s faces,” Borg said. “We’re excited. Don’t get me wrong.
“Now our goal is to host the first two rounds of [the Northern California playoffs]. We’ve accomplished our first goal (of winning the conference title).”