NBL softball: Pumas nearly flawless in win over Santa Rosa

By ERIC WITTMERSHAUS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In a battle between two teams hoping to challenge for a North Bay League title, Maria Carrillo played a near-flawless game, beating visiting Santa Rosa 10-0 on Tuesday.

Backed by a potent offense and error-free defense, sophomore Robin Johnson (6-3) pitched what she said was one of her best games ever, scattering four hits and striking out four in the shutout.

With Tuesday’s Pumas win, Maria Carrillo, Santa Rosa and Cardinal Newman all have one loss in league play and trail unbeaten Rancho Cotate with plenty of softball yet to be played.

“It was good to beat (Santa Rosa) because they’re a good-hitting team,” Johnson said.

The Pumas’ powerful offense staked Johnson to a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the first, as Mikaela Francis and Brittney Veler hit back-to-back home runs.

After Natalie Oropeza walked and Johnson reached on a throwing error, Francis blasted a three-run shot to right field. Not to be outdone, Veler followed with a solo homer to an even deeper part of the ballpark.

Rochelle Schulze capped the scoring with an RBI single later in the inning.

Francis and Veler weren’t done. The pair continued to torment the Panthers in the bottom of the third, when Francis led off with a single through the right side of the infield.

Veler followed with her second home run, this one to deep right center.

Later in the inning, Schulze drove in another run on a groundout.

Veler said Tuesday was the first time she’s ever hit two home runs in a game. The sophomore has three on the year.

Francis, who has four home runs this season, said she and Veler are engaged in a friendly home run chase with Rancho’s Katy Kibbe, who homered Tuesday and has six this season. The three girls play together on the Easton Elite club team.

Francis, like the rest of her team, was surprised at how the game turned out.

“We came out here expecting a tough, grind-it-out win,” she said.

Both the Pumas’ sluggers were quick to praise Johnson’s poised pitching performance.

“Robin did a great job getting them out,” Veler said.

After the third inning, pitchers from both teams settled in until the bottom of the fifth, when the Pumas scored twice to end the game.

With a runner on first after a walk, Schulze drove a double to deep right center to put runners on second and third. Pinch runner Randi McMahan and Schulze came around to score on a groundout and single.

“Our pitchers struggled a bit, and we didn’t support them,” Panthers coach Jeff Pratt said after the game. “You have those days.”

Eric Wittmershaus is The Press Democrat’s online sports editor. You can reach him at 521-5433 or eric.wittmershaus [at] pressdemocrat [dot] com.