In softball circles, Cal State East Bay found its way in Monterey.

The Pioneers' ah-ha moment came against Division II power Cal State Monterey Bay in the California Collegiate Athletic Association last month, when they edged the Otters 6-5 to avoid a four-game sweep.

Suddenly, everything clicked.

They've won 12 of their last 16 games overall.

"The team just decided, 'We're good and we're going to start playing like it,'" said Pioneers coach Barbara Pierce, referencing the Monterey trip. "We had some pretty good wins to that point, but that seemed to be a really strong turning point for us."

The veteran squad is led by right-handed pitchers Talia Ferrari, a great athlete and a solid hitter, and Lauren Zweigle, along with clutch power hitter Taylor Neumann and steady Jamie Yaller, among others.

Now the Pioneers (23-18, 10-14 CCAA), who were 5-2 in the Mizuno tournament in Turlock last weekend, are aiming higher still.

Pierce agreed that the team is trying to define the program for others.

"Last year we started really defining what East Bay softball meant, and what it's going to look like," Pierce said. "The second half of last year we kind to put it all together. I was really excited to get to this year with this group, knowing the talent and the potential we have."


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She added that it could get "really exciting down the stretch" this season.

With six conference games remaining, a berth in the conference tournament seems unrealistic -- only the top four teams advance. But the Pioneers hope to catch fifth-place Sonoma State and possibly earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Division II tournament.

The Pioneers followed their series in Monterey last month with a four-game sweep of Cal State Stanislaus and a series split with UC San Diego.

In the Mizuno tournament the Pioneers had their best showing. They dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker in eight innings to powerful Cal State Dominguez Hills in the championship game of the Silver Bracket.

In the second day of pool play, infielder Taryn Thomas (James Logan, Holy Names) set the tone with three runs and an RBI.

"She's doing great," Pierce said of Thomas, a junior transfer. "She really sets the tone. She's kind of one of those leadoff hitters, when she goes, we go."

J.C. BASEBALL REPORT: Laney (20-6, 12-3 Bay Valley Conference) has enjoyed three significant winning streaks this season.

The first-place Eagles extended their current streak to six with a 6-1 win over Los Medanos on Tuesday as Jim Ploeger improved his record to 4-0. Laney opened the season on a five-game win streak and later went on a six-game tear.

Also in contention in BVC baseball are Los Medanos (13-12-1, 8-6) and Contra Costa (11-2, 7-6).

Laney's Ellis Stepheny leads the conference with a .437 batting average, to rank fourth in the state. Diablo Valley's Aaron Hernandez is tied for 26th in the state rankings with a .391 average. The Vikings' Blake Fassler is second in the Big 8 Conference in earned run average (1.44), and is tied for first in saves (4).

Laney's Isias Alcantar ranks fifth in the state in RBIs with 30. He's also third in ERA at 0.82.

Chabot's San Ramon Valley connection of Scot Quinlan and Craig Massoni has been a power play. They share the lead in the Coast Conference Golden Gate Division in home runs with three apiece. Massoni and Quinlan have also combined for 29 RBIs. Chabot's Justin Fogle (Granada) has two home runs.

Ohlone right-hander Trent Allianic shares the lead in wins in the Coast-Pacific with six and ranks fourth in strikeouts with 43.

Contact Matt Schwab at mschwab@bayareanewsgroup.com.