Softball team secures playoff berth through grit, determination

Junior first baseman Desiree' Gonzalez tries to get out a runner on April 3 in a game against UC San Diego. Photo credit: Ryan Pressey

Heading into the last weekend of the regular season, the Chico State softball team was on the outside looking in on the last spot for playoffs.

Two things stood in the way — a four-game series with the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros and a little help from the UC San Diego Tritons to beat fourth-place team Cal State San Bernardino.

The ‘Cats were in fifth place and a half game behind Cal State San Bernardino heading into the weekend.

“We knew we had a shot at the playoffs and had one thought on our minds,” said Brooke Langeloh. “We are Chico — (we) refuse to lose.”

The Wildcats did their part and grinded out a four-game sweep of the Toros. They had to wait until Sunday night to find out that UC San Diego had beaten Cal State San Bernardino 3-1.

The Wildcats were headed to the conference playoffs.

“Everybody coming together and playing for the girl next to them — that’s the reason we made the playoffs,” said Courtney Brown, senior third baseman.

As the fourth seed in the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, Chico was slated against No. 1 seed, the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters.

The Wildcats took a series against the nationally ranked Otters during the regular season, which proved to be a big turning point in the season.

“When we took the series against Monterey, it showed the team that they could play with anyone in the country,” said Angel Shamblin, head coach.

The ‘Cats finished the season 28-18 overall, and 21-15 in conference, good for seventh in the West Region of Division II softball and a spot in the West Regional NCAA tournament.

Led on the mound by Langeloh and first-year standout Haley Gilham, pitching has been one of the most consistent parts of the team, Shamblin said.

Gilham and Langeloh became a one-two punch, combining for more than 270 of the 310 innings played.

Leading the team offensively were senior shortstop Emily McEnaney, junior outfielder Alli Cook and junior first baseman Desiree’ Gonzales.

McEnaney led the team in most offensive categories, hitting .397 with 40 RBIs and six home runs.

Besides just contributing to offense, Cook and Gonzales etched their names into the Chico State record books.

Cook broke the all-time stolen base record on Feb. 28 against San Francisco State. She finished the year with 20 steals on 24 attempts, bringing her Wildcat career total to 67.

Gonzales needed until the last weekend to hit her way in the program’s history. Against Cal State Dominguez Hills on April 24, she became the Wildcats’ home run leader, hitting the 21st of her career.

Both Cook and Gonzales will return for their senior seasons and add to their records.

Along with dominant pitching and strong offense, Langeloh and Brown said that chemistry plays a huge role in the team’s success.

“The team has so much chemistry on and off the field,” Langeloh said. “The cohesion of our team has helped carry us to where we are right now.”

Shamblin, Langeloh and Brown each use a different single word to describe their season.

Shamblin said grit, Langeloh said memorable and Brown said fun.

The playoffs will mark the last couple of games that the team plays together in their gritty, memorable and fun season.

Nick Martinez-Esquibel can be reached at [email protected] or @THENickMartinez on Twitter.