The College of the Canyons softball team won its first playoff series ever this weekend but it didn’t come easily.
The No. 1 Cougars (39-3-1) took two out of three from No. 16 Santa Barbara City College (24-17) in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association Southern California Regional.
After a 7-2 win in game one on Saturday, the Cougars struggled early on against the Vaqueros losing the first game on Sunday 3-2 but prevailed with a 13-1 victory in the second game. Head coach John Wissmath was surprisingly happy that his team suffered a loss early in the playoffs.
“As funny as it sounds I was glad we lost that first game,” Wissmath said. “We’ve gone two weeks without playing and we needed some more work. I felt that we were definitely the better team and they played us tough that second game.”
Wissmath sent sophomore pitcher Alicia Paiz to the circle in the first game on Sunday in hopes that she could follow up Kimmie Lockhart’s no-hitter in game one. At first it appeared as if Paiz could throw a no-hitter of her own as the Vaqueros didn’t manage to get their first hit of the series until the third inning of game two. Paiz allowed two earned runs and five hits in seven innings while suffering her second loss of the season.
The Vaqueros struck first with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a late 2-0 lead. The Cougars answered in the top of the fifth with an RBI single by sophomore Ruby Herrera, her 36th RBI of the season. Herrera was one for four with an RBI and a double.
The Vaqueros added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth to lead the Cougars 3-1 heading to the top of the sixth. In the top of the sixth the Cougars threatened but couldn’t score, leaving two runners on base.
Still down 3-1 heading to the seventh, the Cougars started a rally by loading the bases with freshman Nikki Haslock drawing a walk, Herrera reaching first on a throwing error, and an intentional walk to freshman Adriana Correa. With the bases loaded and two outs Lockhart lined out to the second baseman to end the game.
The loss snapped a 19 game win streak for the Cougars and it was COC’s first loss at home this season.
Lockhart was in the circle for game three of the series looking to match her performance in game one but the Vaqueros had other thoughts. For the second straight game SBCC scored first in the top of the second. The Cougars had an answer in their half of the second when the bats finally came a live for COC.
“We woke the bats up,” Wissmath said. “We got the girls that feeling we need going into this next round.”
With no one out in the second the Cougars had first and third when sophomore Shay Romero had an RBI single to tie the game at one apiece. Sophomore Caitlyn Zimmerman followed Romero’s single with a two-run triple to give the Cougars a 3-1 lead.
COC added two more runs in the second behind RBI singles from freshman Jenny Wunderlich and Herrera giving the Cougars a 5-1 lead after two innings.
With Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook watching the Cougars bats continued to be red-hot with sophomore Amy Droege driving in two with a double. Correa followed Droege’s double with her second homerun of the series and nineteenth of the season. COC scored three more runs in the fourth inning to lead it 12-1. After the game Droege said it’s important to remind the team how important every game really is.
“You just have to remind them that any team can win on any given day,” she said. “You lose one it happens, but losing two, that’s something we’re not okay with.”
Lockhart earned her 23rd win of the season while allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts. Lockhart said after the game that it’s good to control the momentum of the game.
“It’s good to keep runners off the base paths because it puts less stress on the team,” she said after her second career postseason win. “It’s good to control that.”
The Cougars will host the Super Regional’s, May 11-13 and will play Southwestern on Friday May 11 at 2 p.m.
The winner of the double elimination round will advance to the final four in Bakersfield May 18-20.