The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
College of San Mateo softball coach Nicole Borg admits she hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep over the last few days.
As the mother of 1-year-old, it’s easy to understand why, but she and the Bulldogs are still riding high following their come-from-behind 13-12 win over West Valley, a victory that propelled them to the state tournament’s final four this weekend in Bakersfield.
It is CSM’s first trip to the state finals since 2000.
“It’s still awesome,” Borg said.
The time to celebrate, however, is over. Now it’s time to get down to business and try to do something no CSM team has done — win a state title in softball. The Bulldogs leave Thursday morning and will have a two-hour practice at Bakersfield City College before a banquet honoring the final four team Thursday night. The Bulldogs take the field against Palomar College at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the first game of the four-team tournament.
CSM, the No. 1 seed from Northern California, will take on Palomar, while Southern California No. 1 seed Riverside will play Shasta, the No. 2 seed in Northern California, in Friday’s nightcap of the double-elimination tournament. The championship game is slated for noon Sunday.
“(I told the team) you can really celebrate Sunday and Monday,” Borg said, adding the time to focus for the final four began Tuesday. “Trying to keep them even — not too high, not too low — that’s going to be the challenge.”
The Bulldogs couldn’t be blamed if they were still soaring on the emotional high of Sunday’s win. CSM (41-4 and ranked No. 1 in the state) found itself in a situation it had never been this season: the Bulldogs were down 8-0 to West Valley after three innings. The eight runs were the most the Bulldogs had allowed this season. West Valley eventually built its lead to 12-8 going into the bottom of the seventh inning and it appeared a second, winner-take-all game was destined to be played.
But the Bulldogs had other ideas. They rallied for five runs in their final at-bat, with former Terra Nova standout Talisa Fiame coming through with a two-run, bases-loaded single to give the Bulldogs an improbable 13-12 victory.
“Being down four runs in the seventh and coming back to win says a lot about [this team’s] character,” Borg said. “I never saw any doubt in their eyes. You have to keep playing until it’s over.”
Palomar (30-13) was the No. 4 seed in its super regional at Mt. San Antonio College. It won its first two games — 9-6 over Mesa-San Diego and 15-8 over Desert College — to advance to the championship round. The Comets fell to Mt. SAC, 11-6 in the first game of the championship series, but punched their ticket to the final four with a 4-1 win.
Riverside (42-4), which has been neck and neck with CSM atop the state rankings the entire year, lived up to expectations by winning its super regional, although the Tigers had to come through the losers’ bracket to do so.
After winning its first game 4-2 over Citrus College, the Tigers lost in eight innings to College of the Canyons, 6-5, when the Cougars scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
Riverside rebounded to beat Santiago Canyon 7-5 in an elimination game and then beat College of the Canyons in two straight games, 11-1 and 10-0, to advance to the final four.
In the other Northern California super regional, Shasta College (39-7), the second-ranked team in Northern California behind CSM, won its first two games — 4-3 over Fresno and 4-3 over Sierra — to advance to Sunday’s championship series.
Sierra came through the losers’ bracket and beat Shasta 9-1 in the first game of the finals, but the Knights rallied for an 8-0 win over Sierra in the final game of the tournament to move into the final four.