The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
With 11 freshmen on this year’s squad, one could be forgiven for expecting some growing pains from the 2014 edition of the College of San Mateo softball team.
With a 72-8 record over the previous two seasons, there was no way the Bulldogs could keep up such a pace, could they?
Well, turns out this group of young women has grown up in a hurry and if there were any growing pains, they are far behind it. Going into Tuesday’s game against Gavilan, the Bulldogs have picked up where they have left off the previous two seasons: namely, a 28-1 record, a 24-game winning streak, the No. 1 ranking in the state, running away with the Coast Conference North Division and simply doing what they do best.
“I think we’ve had a lot of really good things happen for us this year,” said CSM coach Nicole Borg, in her eighth season with the program. “With such a young team, I didn’t really feel like we would be this far ahead at this point of the season.”
At this point in the season, the Bulldogs are 28-1 overall and 9-0 in Coast Conference play. Their team batting average of .399 is second-best in the state and their pitching staff’s combined earned run average is 2.23 — which is eighth in the state.
In Coast Conference play, the numbers are video game like. Their team ERA of 0.40 is nearly a run and a half better than Foothill’s 1.86. At the plate, the Bulldogs are hitting a robust .470 in conference play — bettering Ohlone’s .432.
“If anybody looks at our stats, our offense is phenomenal,” Borg said. “(And) we have a strong pitching staff this year. Last year, we had one (quality starting pitcher). This year, we have three who are pitching for us and are being really successful. Each of them have their strengths.”
Despite the gaudy numbers, Borg and her coaching staff constantly drill into the players’ heads it all means nothing as they approach their next game. They let the team know that whoever is next on the schedule would love nothing better than to knock off the top-ranked team in the state.
“We came into the season with a target on our back. Being the defending Nor Cal regional champion, winning two Coast Conference championships in a row, all that matters,” Borg said. “(Opponents) want to say they knocked us off.”
But with the mindset of the next game being the most important, the Bulldogs, for the most part, have avoided sleeping on any opponent.
“We don’t talk about the past. The post-game conversation is about what we did right and what we need to work on,” Borg said. “Once the game is over, you celebrate that game and move on.”
Borg credits her players with having a one-track mind, focused on the task at hand, not getting too full of themselves or believing they have accomplished their goals for the season. She said a lot of that has to do with players coming from winning high school programs. While the team still has a number of local talent — Natalie Saucedo from Burlingame and Talise Fiame of Terra Nova, for example — the team is starting to get talent from the East Bay, including a pair of freshmen — Melina Rodriguez and Kayleen Smith — from James Logan in Union City, which won the North Coast Section championship last year.
It should come as no surprise that both have had a major hand in the success of this year’s squad.
Borg said it is important to have players from competitive programs. Players who are used to winning and are not shy about continuing to win at the next level. When Borg is recruiting players, she lets them know right away the expectations she has of those playing for the Bulldogs.
“The main thing is coming from a competitive high school program. Do they know how to compete? Fortunately for us, this team does. We have kids from a ton of different high schools this year and they understand this is why they’re here. We want to win,” Borg said. “My (recruiting) style is throwing it all out there from Day 1. It’s a very pressured situation. Do you want to be part of that? If the response is ‘yes,’ and the look in their eyes is, ‘heck yes,’ then that’s the player we want.”
And it’s those kind of players that have helped the Bulldogs build a record of 100-9 over two-plus seasons.