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

The College of San Mateo softball team, the defending state champion, is headed back to the California Community College Athletic Association state softball tournament for the ninth time in program history, but they had to go the distance Saturday to get there.

CSM (37-7) opened Super Regional play with a 4-2 win Friday in the best-of-three series, but American River (26-18) took Game 2 early Saturday to force a winner-take-all Game 3 later in the day.

The state tournament begins Thursday at Mt. San Antonio College. The Bulldogs will be joined by three other Nor Cal teams as the top four from the North and South qualify. No. 11 San Jose upset No. 3 West Valley to advance to Mt. SAC; top-seeded Sierra needed a Game 3 win over No. 8 Cosumnes River to advance to the state tournament, while No. 13 Folsom Lake knocked off No. 5 San Joaquin Delta in three games to grab the last Nor Cal slot.

Playing the second game of what became a doubleheader Saturday, the Bulldogs took a 3-0 lead in the top of the second in Game 3. But the Beavers tied the game with three runs in the bottom of the third.

CSM took the lead for good on a Leila Vasquez RBI single that drove in Hailey Meisenbach in the top of the fifth. The Bulldogs then got some breathing room with five runs in the top of the seventh to post a 9-3 victory.

Designated player Luda Gumataotao had the big stick for the Bulldogs, going 4 for 4 while cracking a pair of two-run doubles – one in the second and the other in the seventh. Norris had a pair of hits and three RBIs for the Bulldogs, while Vasquez drove in three.

Tori Cortez earned the win in relief of Lia Evans, who worked into the fourth inning. Cortez came in with one out in the fourth and went the rest of the way, allowing one hit over the final 3 2/3 innings.

In Saturday’s opener, a 5-4 American River win, the Beavers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third and increased their lead to 3-0 with two runs in the top of the fifth.

But CSM finally got the offense in gear in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three times to tie the score at 3-all, with Vanessa Lang driving in a pair in the inning.

But the Beavers scored twice in the top of the seventh and then held the Bulldogs in the bottom of the inning, although Lafu Malepeai’s solo home run cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 5-4.

This time, Cortez took the loss in relief, giving up the two runs in the seventh. Siona Halwani started and worked into the fifth inning, allowing three runs on eight hits.