The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
While Lauren Berriatua didn’t throw a perfect game, she achieved a different type of perfection in Friday’s Super Regional softball opener at the College of San Mateo.
Berriatua fired a one-hit shutout to lead the No. 2-seed Lady Bulldogs (38-0) to a 7-0 win over No. 10 West Valley (30-8). What was perfect about her outing was her ability to keep the ball on the infield. The sophomore struck out 10 and recorded 10 groundouts. The only flyout in the game was a fifth-inning liner to third.
The only hit Berriatua allowed was a swinging bunt up the first base line that West Valley’s Kimberly Showalter legged out for a bang-bang safe call at first base. Along with a sixth-inning walk to Showalter, Berriatua faced 23 batters, none who managed to hit the ball to the outfield.
What was just as impressive is none of Berriatua’s CSM teammates seemed surprised at her dominant performance, especially her outfielders who were, in essence, the three spectators with the best seats in the house for the pitching gem.
“We’re used to it, not getting anything,” CSM center fielder Brittney Wilkerson said. “We’re ready for anything coming our way, but we’re just there for backup.”
The Bulldogs’ infield was a different matter. Berriatua worked at a quick tempo to retire the first eight batters she faced. After the two-out single in the third, she set down eight more in a row, including the closest West Valley’s offense came to reaching the outfield, a soft liner down the third-base line off the bat of Jennifer Amaral that third baseman Kacy Edwards nabbed with a backhand.
“Playing behind [Berriatua] is one of my favorite things,” Edwards said. “She’s very composed and it helps us stay composed.”
The performance was something of a bounce back from last week’s regional playoff opener against American River. While Berriatua anchored the Bulldogs’ staff for a win and a save through a two-game regional sweep, she gave a less-than-dominant performance. After giving up just 12 runs throughout 25 regular-season appearances, she yielded six runs in a 15-6 win in the May 2 regional opener. The performance left people scratching their heads.
Berriatua responded by using the week’s worth of practice to get in the zone. She definitely found it.
“Just a lot of mental preparation to pitch her pitches instead of coming over the plate too much,” CSM head coach Nicole Borg said. “I think we were throwing too many good strikes last week and they were making solid contact. So, I think she did a great job moving her ball around and doing what she has to do to be successful.”
It was something of a bounce-back week for CSM leadoff hitter Melina Rodriguez as well. Last week, Rodriguez opened the two-game playoff series against American River with a home run. She went on to go 0 for 5 in her last five official at-bats of the series, including snapping a 34-game hitting streak dating back to last season in the second game.
The hitless game made for a long week during CSM’s week-long layoff.
“It kind of ate at me a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “But I just kept telling myself, you’re OK. You’ve been in this slump before and you always bounce back. So, it’s just a matter of time when that bounce back will come.”
Rodriguez went hitless through her first two at-bats Friday, constituting her longest hitless streak of the season. But she returned in style, homering in each of her final two at-bats, raising her season total to eight.
Through the first inning, West Valley starting pitcher Kaitlyn Guevara matched zeroes with Berriatua. West Valley’s freshman right-hander looked to be cruising through the second inning as well, Christy Peterson turned the tide when she got second life.
Peterson looked to be a victim of a strikeout, though when West Valley’s catcher didn’t come up with the ball, Peterson sprinted down to first base uncontested. But it was ruled Peterson fouled off the pitch and she returned to the plate to continue her at-bat. On the next pitch, Peterson keyed on the same outside location and drilled a ground-rule double to left-center. Kaitlin Chang followed with a bolt to the right-center wall to drive home Peterson, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
In the third, CSM generated a two-out rally. Harlee Donovan — who was 3 for 3 with a walk on the day — scorched a double down the third-base line. Berriatua then shot a sharp single to center just out of the reach of second baseman Marissa Ortiz’s diving backhand to allow Donovan to score, giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
Then in the fourth, CSM broke through. Chang led off with an infield single and later moved to third on a one-out single by Riley Wells. Rodriguez then delivered a three-run bomb, a towering shot to straightaway center field. The Bulldogs went on to add another run in the frame. Donovan produced a two-out single then stole second, and Berriatua singled her home to make it 6-0.
In the sixth, Rodriguez drilled her second home run of the game to close the day’s scoring.
Berriatua went on to strike out the last four batters she faced to close it out, improving her record to 25-0 on the season.
“She was definitely on her mark today,” Borg said. “Ten strikeouts against a really good hitting team. And the balls that were put in play, we played great defense behind her.”
With the win, CSM advances through the winners’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament to take on No. 8 San Joaquin Delta Saturday at noon. Delta downed No. 3 Diablo Valley College 3-0 Friday at CSM to advance. Two losers’ brackets will follow Saturday’s noontime opener, scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The tourney championship game is slated for Sunday at noon.