The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Now that all the hoopla about Kentucky’s run at an undefeated men’s basketball season is a thing of the past, it’s time to pay attention to the softball team at College of San Mateo.
The top-ranked Bulldogs (33-0), seeking a trip to the state championships for a third year in a row, crossed an item off their checklist by earning a fourth straight Coast North Conference title over the weekend.
“It was our No. 1 goal to do that,” sophomore catcher Leilani Akai said. “Since that’s basically over, now we can start focusing on the end and what’s next, what we’ve been working on this whole season.”
If Tuesday was any indication of what’s to come, the rest of the state better beware. CSM crushed City College of San Francisco to the tune of 31-0 in a mercy-rule shortened game at home in which Harlee Donovan regained the state lead with her 16th home run and Christy Peterson (Carlmont-Belmont) hit a grand slam.
“We know what our record is and everything,” said Akai, who hit two home runs against CCSF. “But I think that we look at not so much the big picture, but what we’re doing at that moment. … Thinking about playoffs isn’t really in my mind right now until we get to that game.”
The weather and quirks in the schedule will cost CSM a total of five games, leaving the Bulldogs with two more contests prior to the postseason, which won’t begin until the first weekend of May.
How does CSM coach Nicole Borg plan to keep her team sharp?
“Really, really detailed practices,” she said. “Just trying to make sure that we can focus on the things we need to get better at and use the time that we have for hard pratices. If you’re playing three, four games a week, you can’t really do that because you gotta save everything for the game. Now we don’t play until next Tuesday, so we have a lot of practice time. And you only get better in practice, so it’s a good thing.”
If needed, the Bulldogs will also get a chance to heal.
CSM began the season with 12 players, then the late addition of Kate Larson (Notre Dame-Belmont) provided “depth” to a team with only two pitchers — albeit Lauren Berriatua (ND-Belmont) leads the state with a 0.30 ERA and Lacie Crawford twirled a five-inning no-hitter Tuesday.
“You kind of measure your success based on the hard games that you’ve had and the adversity that you’ve dealt with,” said Borg, who recently got back leadoff hitter Melina Rodriguez (32-game hitting streak) after losing her for 12 games to a shoulder injury. “The key this year was keeping everybody healthy, and we kept enough healthy up to this point to be as successful as we have.”