American River College’s softball team will open the first round of the playoffs this Saturday with a best of three series at undefeated College of San Mateo (35-0 overall, 16-0 conference).
The first game of the series will be Saturday at 2 p.m., with game two Sunday at noon and a third game if necessary at 2 p.m.
ARC (20-17 overall, 9-12 conference) was selected into the playoffs as the 15th seed by the California Community College Athletic Association after it defeated Modesto in the final game of the regular season.
It was originally selected to be the 13th seed, but was moved down to 15th because two teams from the same conference cannot play each other in the regional round.
“I’m excited. I think that our players are primed and ready and (Monday) was a great practice, great energy,” said head coach Lisa Delgado on her team’s mindset heading into the series.
It is ARC’s first playoff appearance since 2012, when the team also made it as the 15th seed lost to San Mateo in both games of a doubleheader, 2-1 and 8-0.
ARC infielder Jennifer Woo believes her team is ready for the challenge.
“(It’s) going to be a tough game definitely, but it’s nothing we can’t handle,” said Woo. “It’s going to be a close game, but we should be able to keep it close or win.”
During the regular season, San Mateo scored 20 or more runs three times, including a 31-0 victory over City College of San Francisco on April 7.
San Mateo pitcher Lauren Berriatua holds an ERA of 0.28, topping the entire state by a difference of 0.38.
Sharie Albert, ARC’s starting pitcher for most of the season, will likely start all three game of the series if it extends the full length.
“I’ve done it before, I can do it again,” said Albert of the task. “Especially for the playoffs.”
Summer Muir, who joined the team midseason as an infielder after finishing up play for ARC’s women’s basketball team, expressed confidence in Albert’s abilities.
“It’s going to be tough, but she can do it,” Muir said. “She’s basically pitched every single game for us.”
Albert said the key for her is to be mentally strong and if it comes down to the end, she won’t be bothered pitching late in a close game.
“I usually try not to let (a close score) get to me,” she said. “I mean, yeah it’s pressure, but I feel like I pitch better with pressure.”
Assistant coach Darrin Delgado described San Mateo’s pitching as “dominant” and said that ARC will need to get its offensive timing down early and keep the score close early to have a chance.
“We’re going have our hands full,” said Darrin. “We’re going to have to play our best softball in order to compete.”
ARC has made a habit of playing in high-scoring, close games this season, a trend which Muir thought would be to the team’s advantage.
“We’re pretty confident,” she said. “Once we start getting hits, they keep on coming so we just have to get it started.”
Despite San Mateo’s record, Lisa believes that her team will meet the challenge.
“They’re a very good team … but we’ve been playing some really tough competition and I think that we’re ready,” said Lisa.
Lisa also said the fact that ARC played in the Big 8 Conference will give her team a greater chance to defeat San Mateo.
“We just finished the Big 8, which is the toughest conference in the state … so I think we’re ready,” said Lisa.
“San Mateo doesn’t play in a strong conference, so they don’t play the kind of competition we do,” said Darrin.
Matthew Peirson contributed to this report.