Cal State San Bernardino rode the clutch hitting of Ashley Collinwood and Nicole Camarena and the solid relief pitching of Tawni Baker to a 3-2 victory over Cal State Stanislaus Saturday in the first game of their CCAA softball doubleheader.
That victory was enough to give the Coyotes the No. 3 seed in the CCAA conference tournament next week at Humboldt State. The Lumberjacks (24-8) are the No. 1 seed while the Warriors (20-12) are the No. 2 seed and Cal State Monterey Bay (18-14) is the No. 4 seed.
The Coyotes will play the Warriors in the first game of the tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday followed by the Humboldt-Monterey Bay game at 3:30 p.m.
CSUSB lost the nightcap to the Warriors, 5-2, finishing the regular season with a 32-28-1 record and 17-13 in the CCAA, equaling the most wins the softball program has won in CCAA play since it joined the conference in 1991-92.
The irony here is that two teams who didn’t make the CCAA tournament — UC San Diego and Cal State Dominguez Hills — are shoe-ins for the NCAA West Regional since they are ranked No. 2 and No. 5 respectively in the region.
The NCAA tournament is an eight-team affair and right now the Coyotes are in the No. 9 spot, behind San Francisco State, another team that didn’t make the CCAA tournament, having tied UCSD for sixth place at 15-17 in CCAA play. The Gators took three of four from UCSD this weekend.
Other teams in the region top 10 are No. 6 Western Oregon, No. 7 Seattle and No. 10 Hawaii Pacific.
For this moment in time, the Coyotes are celebrating their rising like a Phoenix from the ashes over the past three seasons since it was a cellar-dweller in the conference in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Head Coach Tacy Duncan has rebuilt the team into a regional contender, posting a .500 record against the top 10 teams CSUSB faced this year and taking three of four from UCSD in their CCAA series. The team went 27-27 in 2007 and was picked by the coaches to finish seventh this year.
In game one Saturday, the Coyotes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth and Duncan brought in Baker to relieve freshman left-hander Cassidy Lee. Baker pitched three dominant innings, allowing one hit and striking out three to give Lee her eighth win of the season.
The three Coyote runs came when Tayler Wilson led off the fifth with a single and Debbie Shisler moved her to second with a bunt single. With one out, Jamie Lowe sacrificed both runners along. Collinwood, who had four RBIs on the day, touched Warriors pitcher Jessica Gaumnitz (14-7) for a double to score two runs. Camarena then singled to score Collinwood to make it 3-2 CSUSB.
Camarena and Shisler were both two-for-three in the game as CSUSB had nine hits. The Warriors had just four hits off the combined efforts of Lee and Baker.
In game two, Lee again was in the circle to pitch and went three innings, yielding three hits and two runs, both coming on a two-run homer by Alicia Reid.
The Coyotes tied the game in the third as Wilson walked, Shisler reached on a fielder’s choice. Both runners moved up on a sacrifice by Jordan Dahl and Collinwood delivered again, this time a two-out double to tie the score at 2-2.
Jackie Jacob (10-8) came on to pitch for CSUSB and Stanislaus scored two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth for a 5-2 lead before Baker came in to pitch the final 1.2 innings, giving up two hits and no runs.
CSUSB tried to come back in the seventh, putting runners on first and second with two out but Wilson was thrown out at third on a steal attempt to end the game with the potential tying run at the plate with Jamie Lowe at bat.