NCS softball: St. Vincent falls in D5 title game

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Pitcher Josie Howatt cooled off the hot St. Vincent bats and Valley Christian scored a 3-0 victory in the North Coast Section Division V championship softball game Friday in Dublin.
St. Vincent came into the championship averaging eight runs per game and had scored 21 in the first two NCS rounds.
Howatt, however, allowed only a single to Morgan Selmi in the first inning and a base hit by Hannah Upton in the fourth.
“Howatt is as good as any pitcher we’ve faced,” Mustangs coach Don Jensen said. “She kept our hitters off-balance and we took a lot of third strikes. That was unusual for us. We usually hit the ball.”
The junior struck out seven and induced 11 fly-ball outs while improving her record to 8-2.
The Vikings scored all their runs in the fifth. St. Vincent pitcher Hayley Olsen hit the leadoff batter and, after a groundout, an infield error put two runners aboard.
The next three batters — Amanda Morris, Howatt and Izzy Ayad — each singled home a run.
Valley Christian, the top seed in the division, got eight hits off freshman Olsen. No. 2 St. Vincent made four errors.
The Mustangs had trouble on the road all season. The title game was their sixth loss in eight away games. On their home field in Petaluma, they were 10-1.
“We only had one senior on the team and sometimes talented young teams get nervous away from home,” Jensen said. “The girls coming back next year will learn a lot from a loss like this. They’ll be mentally stronger on the road.”
This was a turnaround season for St. Vincent, which finished 9-9 in 2010.
“We were so young, I don’t think anyone expected us to achieve so much this year,” Jensen said. “We played larger schools before league started to test (us), and I think that paid off.”
St. Vincent defeated Healdsburg and lost to North Bay League playoff teams Montgomery, Santa Rosa and Ukiah.
Six of the 13 players on the roster were freshmen and three others were sophomores. Tori Baldassari was the lone senior.
The battery of Olsen and Ursyla Baumgarten should be together three more years.
Olsen had an outstanding season, going 14-7 and pitching 19 complete games.
“She’s going to get better as she gets older,” Jensen said. “Understandably, she was nervous pitching in a championship game. They got to her in the fifth, but she kept them from scoring their other five at-bats.”
Baumgarten showed up the first day of practice wanting to play the infield, but agreed to catch when she saw no one had worked behind the plate before.
“She had no experience at catching,” Jensen said with a chuckle. “She was a quick learner, and by the time league started she played like a veteran.”
Baumgarten entered Friday’s game with a .421 batting average, one of three Mustangs above .400. The others were sophomores Selmi (.476) and Vanessa Hall (.448).
Junior Kayla Marshall carried a .381 average and sophomore Hannah Upton .380.
“With the nucleus we have coming back, we’ll be solid the next few years,” Jensen said.
Valley Christian, champion of the Bay Counties-East I League, finished the season 15-4. St. Vincent, second to Clear Lake in the North Central I-South, wound up 14-8.
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