For the Glendale Community College softball team, the postseason will begin much the same as the regular season did — with an early matchup with Ventura College.
The first meeting carried little importance — Ventura edged Glendale, 2-0, for its first loss of the season in a Vaquero Softball Classic contest, but the Vaqueros still advanced anyway when the Pirates were unable to play in the tournament finals.
The stakes are much higher now, as the teams are now set to do battle in the opening round of the 2012 California Community College Athletic Assn. Southern Regional in a best-of-three series that carries a berth in the Super Regionals as its prize.
"Both of us have improved, that's for sure," said Vaqueros Coach Dave "Hawk" Wilder, whose team (27-13) opens the series at Ventura (32-7) at 2 p.m. on Saturday. "I think we probably have improved more. We have better hitters than they do, but they have a really good pitcher, no doubt about it."
That pitcher is sophomore left-hander Teresa Lemos (26-6, 1.30 earned-run average), who held the Vaqueros scoreless on six hits on Jan. 28. Lemos led the Western State Conference Gold Division, which Ventura won with a 16-2 record, in wins, ERA and strikeouts (175).
Glendale, which finished second in the WSC Blue Division at 12-6 behind College of the Canyons (16-2), counters with its own lefty ace in Brandy Morin, who went 20-11 this season with a 3.26 ERA and led the conference in innings pitched with 194 1/3.
"We have a lefty, they have a lefty," Wilder said. "I'm not concerned about anything but their pitching."
The teams' offenses would appear to stack up well on paper. Ventura leads its division in team hitting (.339) and has pushed across 273 runs, while the Vaqueros are second in their division behind Canyons at .359 with 261 runs scored.
Glendale has three hitters in the top-six of its division's offensive leaders with infielder Kitty Nguyen (.464 with nine home runs and 52 runs batted in), catcher Jena Kaser (.441, eight homers and 42 RBI) and Morin (.432) all batting above .400.
Clarissa Samaniego (.449 with four home runs and 18 RBI) and Raelene Moreno (.430 with six homers and 40 RBI) are the Pirates' top sluggers.
The second game of the series is set for noon Sunday at Ventura. Should the teams split the first two, a third game will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The winner of the series advances to the Super Regionals in a bracket that will include winners of opening-round matchups between Canyons and Santa Barbara, Mt. SAC and Santa Ana and Riverside and Citrus.
"I think right now that nobody really wanted to play us," Wilder said. "We're just rounding out right now.
"Our girls are ready to go as they can be. I think it will be a great game between us and them. ...Give my coaching staff credit, they did a great job."