The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
College of San Mateo freshman Lafu Malepeai was 12 years old when Travis Ishikawa hit the walk-off home run in Game 5 of the 2014 National League Championship Series to send the San Francisco Giants to the World Series.
Malepeai doesn’t remember that iconic moment in Giants’ history. But that’s OK because Saturday she lived it, etching her own moment of infamy into the history of the storied College of San Mateo Bulldogs softball program.
Stepping to the plate amid a scoreless tie in the eighth inning of Saturday’s elimination-game finale of the California Community College Athletic Association Super Regional against Sacramento City College, Malepeai connected with an outside fastball and lined it over the right-center field wall for a two-run, walk-off home run, lifting the Bulldogs (41-3) to the State Championship tournament, the Bulldogs’ eighth trip to the big dance in program history.
“The sound off the bat, it was nice,” Malepeai said. “And, I don’t know, it was just kind of so surreal.”
CSM entered the day facing an uphill climb in the best-of-three Super Regional against Sac City (25-18-1), having dropped Friday’s opener 6-4. It left the Bulldogs needing to run the table in a Saturday doubleheader to extend their season and keep their hopes of contending for the program’s first-ever State Championship title alive.
Starting pitchers Chloe Moffit and Kealani Cardona did their part, firing back-to-back shutouts. Moffit fronted Saturday’s doubleheader opener, a 3-0 Bulldogs win, with seven scoreless frames to improve her record to 17-0. In the nightcap, Cardona fired eight shutout innings, scattering two hits and two walks, to earn her 20th win of the year.
But when Cardona walked off the mound in the top of the eighth after a groundout to first baseman Sarah Giles, the game was still hanging in the balance of a 0-0 dogfight. The CSM lineup had produced just three runs all day, all in the doubleheader opener.
“Honestly, they were playing defense,” Malepeai said. “Sac City’s defense was really on point and showed they wanted it as well.”
Malepeai — the 2022 Coast Conference player of the year — proved CSM’s most potent weapon, contributing to all five of the Bulldogs’ runs on the afternoon. She swiped the first run of the day in the first inning of the doubleheader opener, taking advantage of a wheel steal with runners on first and third, with Giles stealing second and Malepeai motoring home on the throw.
Then in the fifth inning, Malepeai added a pair of insurance runs with a two-run home run and was welcomed at home plate by an excited pack of celebrating Bulldog teammates.
But that was nothing compared to the celebration she set off with her game-winner in the nightcap.
“Man, that one, it was — I don’t know how to describe it,” Malepeai said. “We were all just so excited we finally were finished with that game. We had just come back from a loss to them the day before, so a lot of emotions were built up that all came out.”
Malepeai has been a force to be reckoned with all season. The freshman out of South City ranks is the top 10 in several CCCAA categories, including fourth in the state with a .518 batting average and 10th in stolen bases with 24. Oh, and Saturday’s walk-off home run sent her surging into the state lead with 16 homers on the year.
“I was just trying to keep it simple,” Malepeai said. “My coach always tells me base hits win games, so that’s what I was trying to do; keep it short, keep it simple.”
Now, she’s in a prestigious club that only a select few like Travis Ishikawa belong.
“Such a great feeling,” Malepeai said.
Play in the CCCAA Softball State Championship tournament opens Thursday at Bakersfield College. The double-elimination format will feature the top eight teams in the state — four from Northern California and four from So Cal — with play spanning through Sunday.
“I’m excited,” Malepeai said. “I know we have a lot of fight in us. We have the capability of being great. I’m pretty sure if we do our jobs, if we do what we are supposed to, it will look pretty good.”