A test of strength against strength will take place this weekend as the sweet-swinging Cabrillo College softball team hosts Reedley College in the First Round of the CCCAA Northern California playoffs.
The No 8-seed Seahawks find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 thanks in part to a stingy pitching staff. They also slugged their way through a competitive Coast Conference South.
“This year was a turn around team,” said Cabrillo freshman Savana Quintana-Martin. “We owe it to ourselves to go out and play for the names on our jerseys and not think about the numbers on our back.”
Game 1 is Friday at 2 p.m. and game 2 is Saturday at noon. If necessary, a third and deciding game 3 will be played shortly after the second game.
It’s the second consecutive postseason birth for the No. 9-seed Tigers, as they improved from their No. 11 spot last year and came just short of earning a hosting bid.
Cabrillo (24-13, 9-6) was awarded a home best-of-three playoff series over Reedley (31-9, 17-4) based on the strength of its Rating Percentage Index (RPI) score, which was ranked No. 7, and despite placing third in the Coast Conference South.
The Tigers placed second in the Central Valley Conference but their RPI rating was No. 8. Both teams split its regular series match-up during a double-header in Aptos on April 5.
The Seahawks will look to bring a balanced attack to bear against the Tigers, blending the dynamic sophomore pitching duo of Miranda Jansich and Brianna Lamb with recent All-State Team selectee Lauren Lahood and her flock of hitters.
On the season, the Seahawks are hitting at a robust .350 batting average as a team, which is the tenth highest in the state, and their .492 team on-base plus slugging percentage ranks No. 12 overall.
Much of that success is thanks to the extreme discipline of Seahawks hitters who have only struck out 65 times over the course of the season. There are only three teams in the state that have had fewer team-strikeouts in 2019.
“We are going into playoffs like we go into any other game,” said Sophomore slugger Kacey Sugimoto. “All gas, no breaks.”
Cabrillo and Reedley are among the state leaders in sacrifice flies. The ability to play small ball is a major advantage in the playoffs where runs will be at a premium. When the Tigers take the field this afternoon there will be little secret to what their strategy will be.
Reedley will rely on ace sophomore starting pitcher Emily Grimbleby (23-8) and her golden arm to shut down the Seahawks’ bats. Grimbleby has struck out 190 hitters and allowed 137 hits in 187.2 innings. Plus, opponents are hitting at just a .209 percent off of her.
In the heart of Reedley’s batting order lies sophomore sluggers Aunika Castellanos and Sandra Vallejo, who provide the bulk of RBI’s for the Tigers offense and guard the corners of the infield while on defense.
Castellanis and Vallejo have combined to produce 23 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 69 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
“Reedley is going to be a really tough match-up,” said sixth year Cabrillo coach Kristy Rossinger. “We played them recently and it was an even battle between both teams.”
San Jose City College won the Coast Conference South outright and earned the No. 2 seed in the NorCal bracket, while second place finisher Monterey Peninsula College received the No. 6-seed. Both teams swept the Seahawks in head-to-head matchups during the conference season.