After 50 years of waiting, Chico State softball’s ‘Team 50’ wins CCAA championship


Chico State shortstop Wendy Cardinali is carried off the field by teammates Haley Gilham and Amanda Flores. Cardinali made a diving catch at shortstop with the tieing run at third base and the go-ahead run at second to end the game. Photo Courtesy: Janna Weiss Photography

The Chico State softball team earned its 50th win of the season in grand fashion Sunday morning. The Wildcats took home the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship after defeating Cal State San Bernardino by a score of 3-2 behind ace pitcher Haley Gilham.

It was the first CCAA tournament win in program history.

Entering the tournament as the No. 1 seed, the Chico State defeated No. 4 Cal State San Bernardino 12-0 in the first round of the tournament Friday before defeating No. 2 UC San Diego Saturday. San Bernardino fought off two elimination games against Stanislaus State and UC San Diego, before meeting the ’Cats in the finals once more.

Starting pitcher Haley Gilham, who had not allowed a run in her previous five starts including two in the CCAA Championship, gave up two runs in the first two innings Sunday. Fortunately, she was able to settle in retiring the next 12 batters in a row. Gilham went on to throw yet another complete game, giving her 25 total on the season. She gave up just four hits and struck out six in her seven innings in the circle.

Pitcher Haley Gilham, left, started all three games of the CCAA Championships in the circle for Chico State while catcher Claire Wayne, right, caught every inning for the Wildcats. Photo Courtesy: Janna Weiss Photography

When asked how she was able to slow down the Coyotes in this one, Gilham said, “We knew they were coming off two big wins and knew that they had some great hitters on their team. We were just trusting our defense and our bats to come through like they had before. I had to keep moving the ball while also changing speeds to try to keep them off balance long enough to take the game.”

After leading the CCAA in hits, runs, RBIs and home runs as a team this season, the ’Cats’ offense was not its usual self in this one.

In the bottom of the second inning, after a walk and a hit by pitch, catcher Claire Wayne chopped an infield single before Amanda Flores drew a walk to put the Wildcats on the board. Left fielder Megan Bowley followed Flores with a huge two RBI single to give Chico a 3-2 advantage. Bowley’s RBI single was an absolute laser to right field, and proved to be the difference maker in this one, as Gilham and the Wildcats would shut down Coyotes the remainder of the game.

2018 marks the the 50th year in Chico State softball history and “Team 50” as they have begun calling themselves checked off yet another box with the win in Stockton. Catcher Claire Wayne, who has been a leader on the Wildcats all season, talked about the huge win and what it means to “Team 50.”

“I can not believe Team 50 got 50 wins and counting. We are definitely taking the momentum into next weekend. Next weekend is a new weekend so we can’t stop now,” Wayne said.

The Chico State softball team will host the NCAA Championship West Regionals Thursday through Saturday. According to the NCAA, the Wildcats are currently ranked No. 2 in Division II in the NCAA behind only North Georgia.

The 2018 NCAA Division II Softball Championship selection show will begin at 7 p.m. Monday. Tune in to see who the Wildcats will be matched up against in the first round of the tournament held at Chico State.

Austin Schreiber can be reached at [email protected] or @aschreiber94 on Twitter.