The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

Defending state champion College of San Mateo exploded for five runs in the fifth inning and took a 9-1 mercy-rule win over visiting West Valley College. The win breaks a first-place Coast Conference tie between the two teams and propels the Bulldogs to their fourth straight league title.

Lafu Malepeai hit her 13th home run of the year, a three-run blast to give CSM a 5-0 lead after five frames. San Mateo ended it with a four-run sixth, getting the eight-run mercy margin on Gabby Perez’s bases-loaded single to left.

Both teams came into the showdown with 11-1 Coast records.

The Bulldogs hold the No. 2 Nor Cal position, just behind Sierra College. That would appear to provide home-field advantage throughout the Northern California playoffs, beginning in two weeks.

State No. 6-ranked West Valley defeated the visiting Bulldogs, 7-0, in their April 1 first round clash in Saratoga. The Vikings, however, lost to third-place Monterey Peninsula, 2-0, last week — ending an 18-game winning streak. That set up Thursday’s title decider.

Each team has one league game remaining. The Bulldogs, however, can do no worse than tie for the title. They host seventh-place Ohlone (3-10, 10-23) Tuesday at 3 p.m. San Mateo will also play a non-league game at West Valley Saturday at noon.

Lia Evans pitched a six-inning complete game Thursday to improve her record to 7-0. The freshman right-hander scattered three hits, striking out two and walking just one batter.

Luda Gumataotao and Isabella Cowne started the fifth inning with singles and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Mariah Norris. Vanessa Lang’s infield single scored pitch-runner Alyssa Kaumbulu-Docherty. Then Cowne came home with another run as Lang grabbed attention and extended play, while stealing second base. She held position on an infield single by Leila Velasquez, leading up to Malepeai’s homer over the center-field fence.

West Valley interrupted the shutout with a single run in the top of the sixth on a ground out that brought in Bella Sweet from third base.

Gumataotao started the CSM sixth with a double down the left-field line. Cowne, Norris and Lang singled to get the final run production underway, along with a sacrifice fly by Velasquez, leading up to the walk-off single by Perez.

San Mateo has now won nine of the last 10 Coast Conference softball titles. The only interruption was in 2019. There was no competition in the 2020 and 2021 COVID seasons.