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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on May 3rd, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 9 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 9

Hancock hopes for postseason: Bulldog softball team secures third conference title in four years after successful season

By KEENAN DONATH

The best softball team in this year’s Western State Conference calls Santa Maria their hometown.

Allan Hancock College’s softball team has separated itself from the Central Coast’s community college competition in 2017 and hopes to carry the success into the postseason, which is set to begin in early May.

Led by sweet-swinging shortstop Larissa Ostrander the Bulldogs have won numerous games in convincing fashion on the way to finishing 27-13 and 19-5 for the Western State Conference in the regular season. Ostrander, a Bay Area transplant who graduated from Santa Clara High School, led the team in at-bats, hits, triples, and RBIs. The sophomore’s dominating play was probably best on display in a late-season doubleheader with the LA Pierce Brahmas.


TAKING THE FIELD
The Allan Hancock College softball team won the tightly contested Western State Conference this season. Pictured: The Bulldogs gather before taking the field in a game against second-place Ventura.
PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN BOLAND

In the first game of the afternoon, Ostrander went 4 for 4 at the plate with two doubles and two triples. She also drove in seven runs in the game, a victory the Bulldogs won very decisively at 31-0. In game two, the shortstop almost outdid her earlier performance, adding two more triples and an inside-the-park home run in a game the Bulldogs would go on to win 25-0.

“Part of the reason why we were so successful this year is that we took every game on the schedule very seriously,” starting pitcher Bailey Killough said. “Even games that people thought didn’t matter, we wanted to win really badly.”

While the team consistently put up double digits on the scoreboard, pitching was a big part of Hancock’s success this season. In that doubleheader with LA Pierce, the Bulldogs pitchers held the Brahmas to only one hit in each of the contests. The shutouts came courtesy of talented right-handers Killough and Shannon Peterson, respectively.

Killough is one of Hancock’s top players. The freshman who previously committed to playing collegiate softball at the University of Hawai’i Hilo, Killough has pitched in the majority of Hancock’s games this season and still holds an ERA that’s below 1 1/2 runs. She has made nearly 10 appearances this year in which she held opponents to zero runs.

“All I did in Hawai’i was just pitching, so I worked on my pitches like every day,” she said. “I studied the batters’ swings when they got in the box so I could figure out where to pitch to them. I also developed a lot of confidence in my curve ball.”

But Killough and the Bulldogs have not been without their own disappointments on the diamond this year. Cuesta College had Hancock’s number all year, taking all three of the team’s games by tight margins. A late March matchup at Cuesta even proved controversial for the competitive squads.


LEFTY LEADING THE TEAM
Shortstop Larrissa Ostrander leads the state with 10 triples and leads the Bulldogs with a .388 batting average, 10 doubles, and 44 RBIs. The sophomore has been virtually an everyday player for Hancock since she enrolled.
PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN BOLAND

In the midst of a battle between nearby rivals, the Cougars and the Bulldogs were tied at two runs apiece when the remainder of the game was suspended. Play resumed nearly a month after the first pitch of the game was thrown but it was Cuesta that eked out a 4-3 victory.

“There was an unreported sub, and we convened with the two umpires and we found a misinterpretation of the rules,” coach Scia Maumausolo said. “The game went into suspension, and we finished it later in the season.”

Even with their difficulties playing against Cuesta College, the Bulldogs were still able to finish their regular season strong and win the conference. With Cuesta sitting close behind them and Ventura College nearly even in the standings, Hancock beat Moorpark College twice in the final two games of the regular season.

Those final two games against the Moorpark Raiders were unlike the first five the Bulldogs played this season. In the first five matchups of the year, the Hancock squad went 5-0 with a combined run differential of 51 to 9. In their last two games of the regular season against the Raiders, the Bulldogs won by 1 and 4 runs, respectively.

“Having some perseverance through our last few games really helped,” Maumausolo said. “We stuck to the game plan and believed in it, and it made a big difference.”


SUBLIME IN THE CIRCLE
Allan Hancock College Bulldogs Pitcher Bailey Killough led the Western State Conference with a 1.39 ERA. The freshman player transferred over to Hancock from University of Hawai’i (Hilo), and also hit .337 with 28 RBIs at the plate.
PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN BOLAND

In those games, the battering ram of Killough and Peterson was enough to outlast Moorpark in two tightly contested games. Killough went five innings in the first game, and Shannon Peterson went the distance in the second matchup. Peterson, who hails from Santa Clara like teammate Ostrander, will be a pivotal backup ace to Killough as the postseason starts up.

Other key players in the field for  the Bulldogs are infielder Myranda Morales and occasional first base/designated hitter Emily Gantt. Morales, a sophomore who graduated from Pioneer Valley High School, finished the regular season with a more than respectable batting average of .342 and had 38 hits in 37 games played. Gantt, an alumna of St. Joseph High School in Santa Maria, is Hancock’s premier power hitter at the plate. The sophomore led the team in home runs (8) and slugging percentage (.820) in only 61 at bats in the regular season.

Whether or not the Bulldogs are able to complete a deep postseason run, there is no denying that their play this season is deserving of some praise. With contributions coming from all parts of their lineup and a solid ace in the circle, Hancock will be a hard team to beat in the playoffs.

“We just really need to focus on playing our own game.” Killough said. “We can’t focus on who the other team is, umpires, or other things that are out of our control. It was easier to maintain that focus in the beginning of the season, but we have had to work a little harder near the end of the season.”

Sports contributor Keenan Donath can be reached through Managing Editor Joe Payne at jpayne@santamariasun.com.




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