BARSTOW Last season was a tough one for the Barstow Community College softball team. The Lady Vikings played to an 0-14 record, finishing in the basement of the Foothill Conference. Not only were there all those losses, they were big losses, every one of them coming by the mercy rule. That means there were a whole lot of games where the Vikings came up short by eight runs or more.

That, however, was last year. The 2012 season has barely begun, and not only did Barstow win its first home game on Friday in the opening match of a doubleheader, the legacy of last year was turned on its ear as BCC mercy-ruled El Camino College-Compton Center, 24-12.

Vikings head coach Jennie Fregoso is hoping Friday started a trend. Fregoso took over the team shortly before last season began, and has every intention of strengthening the program. She's an alumni of both BCC and the softball team, of which she served as captain for two years. She always planned to return and has made good on that; now comes the project of making the Vikings into a formidable Foothill opponent.

"This program has never had consistent coaching, even back when I played," said Fregoso. "We took some bad losses, but I love softball. I always intended to come back here and help the program grow. I'm very comfortable here; I know everyone on campus and everyone knows me."

As she took over right before play began, Fregoso had to make the best of what was in place last year. Getting mercy-ruled in every game can take its toll, and she was grateful that the team stuck with it.

"We only had nine players last year. Our goal was to just finish out the season," said the coach. "I don't know how I was able to get the girls to go out and play every game. I guess I was good at encouraging them, and they followed my lead."

The numbers are up this year, with the softball roster currently running at about 15 players. Turning things around will take some time, but Friday's win will hopefully prove to be something on which to build.

The lead went back and forth before Barstow took control in the third inning of game one. The Tartars started out strong, scoring five runs in the top of the first. They did so with three singles, and help from a walk, error, and hit batter. They picked up three extra-base hits over the next two frames, doubles by Alex Delacruz and Lanita Leary, and a three-run homer by Kate Meredith.

The visitors sputtered after that, though, and were held scoreless in the last two innings. Vikings pitcher Kayla Ulibarri settled in to face only seven batters in the fourth and fifth, giving up just a single while retiring the others on ground balls. Second baseman Nicole Bernal made a nice play for the first out of the fifth, making a sliding grab of a grounder and relaying to first baseman Daisy Garcia just in time to get the runner.

Offensively, the home team rapped out 14 hits, four of them for extra bases. Serena Winston led off the bottom of the first with a triple, and Andrea Kolwyck followed by driving a pitch to deep center that she legged out for an inside-the-park home run. In the second, the Vikings parlayed two wild pitches, three errors, three walks, and singles by Ulibarri and Kolwyck into seven runs.

It was the third that led to the mercy rule win. In the top half, the Tartars tacked on another five runs to take a 12-9 lead, but the bottom half took the better part of an hour to play as BCC scored 15 runs on eight hits.

"We didn't score a total of 15 runs in all 14 games last year," said Fregoso. "So that's a nice accomplishment all by itself."

Twenty Vikings batted in the marathon inning. El Camino's Malina Rubio had some control problems, issuing eight walks, but there were also 11 RBI in the frame. Garcia batted twice, belting out a single and home run and driving in five, while Kolwyck walked and singled, good for three RBI. Sabrina Hernandez-Jimeriez, Bernal, and Kayla Strauss also drove in runs.

For good measure, the Vikings tacked on two more in the fifth. Jimeriez reached on an error and Strauss singled, setting the table for Garcia, who blasted a triple to right.
Garcia went 3-for-5, lacking just a double for the cycle, with seven RBI. Kolwyck also had quite a game, with two singles, a home run and six RBI, while Jimeriez and Ulibarri drove in a pair of runs each.

There were lots more hits in game two, which went all seven innings and ended with the Tartars on top, 29-25.

"We fought all the way through to the last batter," said Fregoso. "We'd fall in a hole, dig ourselves out, then fall again. The lead went back and forth. If there had been another inning, we might have won."

It all made for a lengthy day of softball, and as much as she loves the game, it left the coach and her team a bit weary.

"It was a good feeling to beat them and get our first win, but a doubleheader like that is tough," she said. "They were two good games, but a little too strenuous on everybody."

Unless there's a change in the schedule, it will be the only double-dip of the season. The Vikings will next play five games on the road before coming home to host Antelope Valley on March 7. By that time, Fregoso is hoping her team will earn some more W's, but right now, she's focused on helping the softball program grow.

"Barstow is so far away from powerhouse talent, it can be hard to get kids to come here," she said. "But I always wanted to come back. I take a lot of pride in Barstow."