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

It took a victory in the winner-take-all Super Regional finale Saturday, but defending state champion College of San Mateo is headed to a ninth consecutive California Community College Athletic Association softball state tournament.

First-round action begins Thursday and concludes Sunday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. The tournament is a double-elimination format, between the top four teams from the North and South.

Last year, the Bulldogs got to the championship round undefeated, but needed to beat Sierra in the ultimate game Sunday, 8-1, to clinch the program’s first state championship.

Last year, CSM was the No. 1 seed out of the North. This year, Sierra is.

Last Saturday, the Bulldogs eliminated visiting American River College in the best-of-three Super Regional. CSM won the opener 4-2, but the Beavers rallied for a 5-4 win in Game 2 early Saturday afternoon, to force a deciding Game 3 as part of a doubleheader, with CSM prevailing 9-3.

No. 2 North seed CSM (37-7) will open state tourney play in Thursday’s nightcap at 8 p.m. against No. 3 South seed Cypress College (38-6). The Chargers bring an eight-game winning streak into the state tournament, having swept regional foes Pasadena and Ventura, the latter in shutout fashion, 4-0 and 8-0.

Orange Empire Conference champion Cypress has not lost since April 15, when Palomar, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, took a non-league doubleheader, 8-0 and 5-2.

The Bulldogs bring a mostly new team to the state tournament, with only four returning starters from last year’s title team. But they do have some championship experience. In addition to tournament MVP Malepeai, they also return shortstop Leila Velasquez, who earned the tournament’s Gold Glove award for her defensive work last year.

While Hailey Meisenbach did not get any at-bats in the state tournament in 2022, she served as the Bulldogs’ primary pinch runner and scored three times in four games.

Malepeai put together another monster season offensively for the Bulldogs. The South City graduate led the state in OPS, with a robust 1.659 and, being the CSM leadoff hitter, led the state in runs scored with 59. She was second in the state in home runs with 15, one behind the state leader and finished fifth in the batting race with a nice, even .500 average.

In five regional and super regional games, Malepeai was a combined 6 for 15 with two home runs, a triple, six RBIs and eight runs scored.

Catcher Gaby Perez and Meisenbach joined Maleapeai earning North Region All-American honors, while second baseman Vanessa Lang joined that trio in earning all-state honors in Northern California.

Pairings for Thursday’s CCCAA state softball tournament openers at Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut:

11 a.m. — No. 2 South seed Mt. San Antonio (39-5) vs. No. 3 North San Jose (26-16);

2 p.m. — No. 1 North Sierra (42-3) vs. No. 4 South Cerritos (31-14);

5 p.m. – No. 1 south Palomar (40-1) vs. No. 4 north Folsom Lake (21-24);

8 p.m. – No. 2 north College of San Mateo (37-7) vs. No. 3 south Cypress (38-6).