The College of San Mateo softball team ended a historic 2013 season on a bitter note — it was pummeled by Riverside College 10-2 in a California Community College Athletic Association final-four elimination game on Saturday at Bakersfield College — but the loss did little to dampen what was otherwise one of the greatest seasons in Bulldogs history.
If the standard of a junior college sports program is winning on the field, having a roster dominated by local former high school stars and then transferring those players to four-year universities, then the Bulldogs have raised the bar to another level.
“We’re always reaching for the highest standard,” said CSM coach Nicole Borg, who completed her seventh season at the helm of the tradition-rich program.
CSM finished 41-6 after advancing to the final four for the first time in 13 years. Out of the 13 players on this year’s roster, 11 played high school ball in San Mateo County. In the last two years alone, CSM has had eight players transfer with scholarships to four-year programs. This year’s roster was a who’s who of standouts. Bulldogs ace Michele Pilster, the Northern California Pitcher of the Year, starred at Capuchino High of San Bruno.
So did standout catcher Jamie Navarro, who earned NorCal Player of the Year honors. But perhaps the most unlikely star on a CSM team that was loaded with them was freshman second baseman Talisa Fiame, a Terra Nova High graduate. Fiame played in all 47 games, racking up 57 hits, a .399 average, 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 56 RBIs and a robust .699 slugging percentage.
The latter three marks were by far the best on the team, but that doesn’t even begin to express just how spectacular of a season Fiame had. Fiame actually had more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven), an amazing statistic for the power numbers she put up.
Not bad for someone who is generously listed at 5-foot-7, didn’t take up the sport until her freshman year of high school and never hit a home run until this season. One of the many highlights in Fiame’s extraordinary season came when she delivered a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning to seal a 13-12 win over West Valley in a May 12 super regional game that sent CSM to the final four.
“When it’s game day and she’s up with two outs and the bases loaded, there’s really no other clutch player I’d rather have up to bat,” Borg said.
Fiame was definitely in a zone all season.
“I was feeling confident once the season got going, and it just kept going,” she said.
Even though Fiame was a standout player in high school, she didn’t receive much attention because Terra Nova wasn’t one of the top teams in the Peninsula Athletic League. In addition, Fiame never played for a summer traveling team, where most of the top prep talents get noticed by college coaches. Fiame always wanted to play beyond high school, and she’s taken her game to another level at CSM — not that she’ll take any credit.
When asked about her success, Fiame repeatedly praised the CSM coaching staff for its attention to detail. Fiame goes over her swing with assistant coach Dale Bassman every day, fine-tuning it through hours and hours of practice.
“I’m just glad all of the hard work is paying off,” Fiame said. “There’s nothing else I’d rather do than hit in the cage for hours everyday to improve my swing.”