NBL softball: Cougars stay unbeaten in league


Young and talented, the Rancho Cotate softball team is poised for an undefeated league season after defeating its closest pursuer, Maria Carrillo, on Tuesday.

The Cougars’ second North Bay League victory over the Pumas played out much like the first. Katy Kibbe pitched strong and the defense better in the 5-1 victory.

“We’ve been solid all year. This was a big one,” Kibbe said.

Winning at Maria Carrillo was a test for a Rancho Cotate team that should take its final three league contests, continuing to build momentum for the North Coast Section playoffs.

Despite not playing sharp Tuesday, Maria Carrillo is also headed for the section playoffs.

“This one’s going to hurt for awhile. But we’re going to work our tails off to get back to the playoffs,” said Maria Carrillo shortstop Mikaela Francis.

Usually among the Empire’s top softball squads, Rancho Cotate and Maria Carrillo have a renewed rivalry. Both are young — Kibbe was the only senior on the field — and improving.

Hitting is a strong suit for both teams. Tuesday’s pitchers, though, did well to keep batters from squaring up on balls. There was one notable exception.

Taylor Haug blasted the game’s first pitch over the fence in right-center to put Rancho Cotate ahead to stay.
Then the Pumas’ Robin Johnson did her job, walking only two and striking out six in a complete-game effort.

What hurt Maria Carrillo were errors. Dropped balls and poor throws figured in Rancho Cotate’s rallies in the fifth and seventh innings.

With runners at the corners and one out following an error in the fifth, Rancho Cotate scored on Dezire Perez’s single. A wild pitch brought home another run. A wide throw on what would have been an inning-ending force out allowed the Cougars to score their fourth run of the game.

Bouncing back in their half of the inning, Maria Carrillo had runners in scoring position on a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt. Rochelle Schulze scored on an errant pickoff attempt at third base. Kibbe grabbed a come backer to end the Pumas threat.

The Cougars’ ace was very good again Tuesday. Kibbe scattered hits and didn’t allow a walk, striking out eight with her rise and curve balls particularly effective.

“I had to keep them off balance. They really hit well,” Kibbe said. “My defense played really well behind me.”

Getting an early lead also allowed Kibbe to settle in against Maria Carrillo.“It helps a lot to start off with a lead. I can relax,” she said.

Playing tight was the Pumas’ problem.

“To beat them you have to play your best and we didn’t,” Francis said. “We let who we were playing get into our heads.”

With a deep lineup of good hitters, Maria Carrillo is working on improving in the field.
“If we improve our defense, we’ll improve our game overall,” Francis said.

Maria Carrillo has a final week of league play to sharpen its game.
Rancho Cotate already is formidable, with only one (non-league)loss. Kibbe has been the anchor, though she wants her hitting to get going.

“That’s why I like pitching. When I’m not hitting, I can play my part still,” she said.