Pumas hold Trojans to 2 hits

By HOWARD SENZELL
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Starter Mario Smaldino and two relievers held visiting Petaluma to two hits Monday as Maria Carrillo posted a 5-1 victory in an opening-round game in the Al Rabinovitz Baseball Tournament.

In other opening-round action, Analy defeated Piner, 8-3, and Santa Rosa edged Windsor, 12-11.
The tournament continues next Monday with winners’ bracket games featuring Analy at Maria Carrillo and Santa Rosa visiting Montgomery. The Vikings had an opening-round bye.
In the losers’ bracket, Petaluma travels to Piner; Windsor gets a bye.

The tournament, originally scheduled March 23-24, was postponed because of rain. A team from Salem, Ore., was in the original field. They pulled out when the new format meant too much traveling.

The way Carrillo handled Petaluma, the Pumas are now definitely the team to beat. The Trojans came to town with a team batting average of .320, but were baffled by starter Smaldino and relievers Devin Breining and Justin Pennachio.
Smaldino was starting for the first time this season and only learned a few hours before the game that he was going to pitch the tournament opener.

“I was definitely pumped up when I got the news,” Smaldino said. “I knew this was a big game for our team and I was anxious to get out there. I had the curve ball working and that set up my fastball and change-up.”

When Smaldino loaded the bases in the fourth with one out, first-year coach Derek DeBenedetti brought in Breining. The senior got Patrick Hodges on a fly ball to right fielder Vijay Patel. Daniel Comstock tagged up at third base, but a perfect throw to the plate nailed him to end the inning.
Breining didn’t allow a hit in 1» innings, and Pennachio finished with two innings of hitless relief.

“Their pitchers kept us off balance,” Petaluma coach Paul Cochrun said. “Also, they played good defense and their hitters put the ball in play. It was an excellent effort.
“When you only get two hits, it’s hard to win. Brandon Hagerla (the Trojans’ starter) kept us in the game and gave us an opportunity to win.”

Petaluma’s record is now 7-3-1. Carrillo, a team with 12 seniors, is 3-5.
“I know we’re capable,” said DeBenedetti, who succeeded longtime coach Steve Tagnoli. “The way we played against Petaluma, I think we’re finally putting it together.”

The Pumas are in the middle of a grueling schedule caused by last month’s rain.
By the end of this week, they’ll have played six games in eight days. Today, Carrillo travels to

Ukiah for a make-up, on Wednesday it’s back home vs. Montgomery and Friday it’s a road game at Piner.

Smaldino and Brandon Mahre led the offense against Petaluma, each getting two hits. The former came into the game with a .250 average while the latter was hitting .158.
Both had singles in the pivotal fifth inning when the Pumas scored three runs. Smaldino hit a line drive between shortstop and third while Mahre’s fly ball landed just inside the right field foul line.