Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
CSM’s Natalie Saucedo watches her drive to right field sail over the fence for a grand slam in the bottom of the third inning of the Bulldogs’ 8-0, five-inning win over Monterey Peninsula.
College of San Mateo softball just keeps on rolling.
With an 8-0 win over Monterey Peninsula Thursday, the Bulldogs won their 20th straight. Sophomore slugger Natalie Saucedo provided the big swing of the bat, as the Burlingame grad launched a third-inning grand slam to put the game on ice for CSM.
Everything seemed to go the Bulldogs’ way, with the exception of a first-inning bounder down the third-base line that clipped the bag to turn an otherwise routine groundout into a high-bounding base hit.
But even though Monterey would go on to load the bases in the first, CSM right-hander Ashlynne Neil settled down to induce a harmless groundout to end the inning. The transfer sophomore would go on to notch her second complete-game shutout of the season — both of the five-inning variety by virtue of the eight-run rule.
CSM (7-0 in Coast North Conference, 24-1 overall) faced an interesting situation in the top of the fifth after Monterey sophomore Alyssa Sargent laced a one-out double off the right-field wall. So, with the Lobos’ hottest hitter coming to the plate in the person of Beverly Miller, CSM head coach Nicole Borg opted to issue an intentional walk in an attempt to keep the eight-run lead in tact.
And with the Bulldogs just two outs from notching the landmark victory, Neil got them both on the very next pitch when Monterey freshman Rachel DiMaggio hit a soft liner at CSM second baseman Talisa Fiame, who nabbed it and tossed to second to double up Monterey, ending the game for consecutive win No. 20.
“If you can minimize innings at this point of the season, sometimes it’s better,” Borg said. “Especially when we have a doubleheader Saturday and we have to come back and then we play two conference games next week. … We’ve been in games where we give up that run in the fifth inning … and then it gets closer than it should. So, to just put that final stamp on it, it’s always a good feeling.”
It’s been nothing but good feelings for the Bulldogs this season, who have been the No. 1 ranked team in the state for two consecutive weeks. And there is no one who personifies the feel-good nature of the team more than Neil. Born and raised in a small farm town called Winters — just outside of Davis — to ultimately arrive at the powerhouse softball program on the hill, Neil is still in awe of the ginormous campus of CSM.
“Winters is a tiny, tiny, tiny town,” Neil said. “There are more students at the College of San Mateo than in my town. So, I’m in a little shell shock being up here.”
She sure looks at home when she’s in the circle though. With Thursday’s win, Neil improves to 11-0 on the season. Through five innings of work, she allowed five hits and notched five strikeouts, falling one strikeout shy of season high of six against American River on Feb. 15.
“It’s easy to clear everything out and think,” Neil said of stepping into the circle. “No matter where I’m from, I’m here because I deserve to be here and just give it my best.”
So does the CSM offense. The Bulldogs rank second in the state, hitting .401 as a team. And the bats came alive in support of Neil Thursday.
CSM got on the board in the first. After freshman Kayleen Smith drew a one-out walk, she moved to second on a passed ball. Then with two outs, freshman Skania Lemus scorched an RBI single to right to score Smith, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
CSM has outscored opponents 39-10 in the first inning this season.
In the third, CSM sent nine batters to the plate. Lauren Berriatua drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a bunt single by Raquel Martinez. Smith walked to load the bases. Then with two outs, Saucedo came through with the clutch grand slam to give the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead.
CSM didn’t stop there though. Melina Rodriguez drew a two-out walk and stole second, and Brooke Ramsey delivered an RBI single to plate Rodriguez, giving CSM a 6-0 lead.
In CSM’s final at bat in the fourth, Martinez ripped a one-out single to center then moved to second on a groundout by Smith. With two outs, Fiame shot an RBI single to left to score Martinez and cap the day’s scoring. All of CSM’s eight runs in the game scored on two-out hits.
While this isn’t the first 20-game winning streak of Borg’s eight years at the helm of the Bulldogs, she admitted it has still been a fun ride, although she refuses to take anything for granted even with her squad currently sitting atop the state rankings.
“I never know what we’re gonna do until we do it,” Borg said. “So, it’s pretty awesome. We’re rolling right now and hopefully we can keep our head in the right direction and one game at a time.”