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March 26, 2008 > March Madness, fast pitch softball style

March Madness, fast pitch softball style

By Biff Jones
Photos By Don Jedlovec

First, March Madness, the California Women's Community College Fast Pitch Softball Tournament designed by Ohlone College of Fremont Head Softball Coach, Donna Runyon, had to be moved from Central Park in Fremont to Pleasanton Sports and Recreational Park in Pleasanton because of a scheduling conflict. Then, the weather forecast earlier in the week made it seem like Saturday's games might be in jeopardy because of rain and thunder storms. This reporter was one of those who thought rain was a strong possibility, but Coach Runyon was having none of it. Even though some think Coach Runyon can walk on water, especially when it is iced over, she used her influence with Mother Nature to produce a cool, windy, and for the most part, precipitation free weekend. Though skies were threatening at times on Saturday, Sunday proved to be an almost cloudless, high sky day for the lady softball players.

The softball complex of four lighted fields at Pleasanton is set up for men's slow pitch players. Thus, the fences were about 250-300 feet from home plate. Although the infield is the same for both fast and slow pitch softball, any home runs hit in this tournament were of the inside the park variety. In addition, the fences behind the infield protecting the bleachers where the fans sit are shorter than fast pitch fences. This meant many foul balls off the fast pitch bats went back into the spectator area between the four fields and even into the other fields. The words heard all weekend during the tournament were, "heads up," as the foul balls "pin-balled" around the complex.

All sixteen teams participating in March Madness played three games on Saturday during pool play between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. During pool play, the local teams, Ohlone of Fremont and Chabot of Hayward, along with Sierra of Rocklin, were the only teams to win all three games.

Ohlone defeated Solano of Fairfield, 8-4 in six innings (ended early because of 1:45 time limit). This was a team that defeated Ohlone, 11-9, earlier in the year when Ohlone could not catch the ball. The win over Solano was followed by wins over Feather River of Quincy, 4-0, and Modesto, 3-1. Freshman, Kelly Colker, pitched and got the wins over Solano and Modesto while sophomore, Danielle Yee, pitched the shut-out against Feather River to improve her record to 7-0 on the year.

In the quarter-final round on Sunday, Colker got the 12-1 win vs. Fresno City College, called after five innings because of the eight run mercy rule. In a semi-final match with Sierra, Yee started for Ohlone but could not get out of the second inning and was relieved by Colker. Ohlone got on the board first with one run in the first inning, but that would be all they could muster as Sierra ended Ohlone's tournament run with a 4-1 victory. Colker took the loss to drop her record to 12-5 for the season. Hitting stars for Ohlone were sophomore first baseman, Cassandra Ortega with eight hits, freshman catcher, Kathryn Sumner, seven hits, sophomore outfielder, Danielle Cameron, six hits and freshman shortstop, Jamie Miller, five hits. According to Coach Runyon, the team's 4-1 record over the weekend showed they had turned the corner on having a successful season with an overall record of 20-5 and being undefeated in Coast Conference League play in which Ohlone leads the Northern Division of the League. The team has now passed the halfway point of the season.

On Saturday, Chabot had their hitting shoes on as they defeated Yuba of Marysville, 10-2, in five innings, then upset San Jose City, 7-6, by taking the lead with four runs in the bottom of the sixth as the 1:45 time limit expired. In their final game of the day, Chabot knocked of Portersville, 9-8.

For the Gladiators, Sunday was another story. In the quarter-final game, Chabot faced Diablo Valley (DVC) of Pleasant Hill, a team they defeated twice to open the season, 11-2 and 7-4, in a doubleheader on the DVC Campus. According to Chabot Head Coach Chelsea Spencer, the doubleheader win at the end of January, combined with going 3-0 on Saturday, made the team a little complacent. This complacency, and three fielding errors during critical situations, led to the Gladiators exit from March Madness, 2008, as they fell to DVC, 7-3. Freshman pitchers Cristina Panuco and Jessica Bonilla won two of the games on Saturday, while Bonilla took the loss on Sunday. Offensively, Bonilla and sophomore shortstop, Shampayne Clay, led Chabot with Clay scoring all three of their runs against DVC.

Next up for Chabot is Gavilon of Gilroy, Wednesday, March 26 at 3 p.m. on the Campus of Cal State East Bay in Hayward. They then hit the road for the next couple of weeks. For Ohlone, it will be a chance for revenge as they travel to Rocklin, Saturday and Sunday, March 29 - 30, for a tournament on Sierra's Campus.

Congratulations to Coach Runyon, her staff, players, parents and families of players, and other friends of the Ohlone Softball Team for a well run 2008 March Madness event.

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