By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Maria Carrillo's Jake Scheiner stole home in the bottom of the sixth to break a tie, and the Pumas rallied to edge Rancho Cotate, 6-5, in a North Bay League Tournament first round game Wednesday afternoon.
No. 1 seed Cardinal Newman defeated No. 4 Montgomery, 3-0, in the other opening round match-up. The two winners will meet Friday with an automatic North Coast Section berth on the line. That tourney starts next week.
Carrillo began the home half of the sixth trailing, 5-2. The Pumas had scratched out three runs when the biggest play of the game took place.
It unfolded with Scheiner on third base and pinch runner Clayton Pool on first. With two outs and reliever Justin Rodgers pitching to Chris Collett, Pool ran a couple of feet toward second and stopped.
While that was going on, Scheiner broke for the plate. First baseman Trevor Dodele elected to try for Scheiner instead of tagging Pool, but his throw was low and catcher Jordan Ho was unable to apply a tag on the sliding runner.
"I called a play designed to draw a throw to first; it wasn't a straight delayed steal," said manager Derek DeBenedetti, who was coaching third. "When the throw went down to first, I made a split-second decision to send Scheiner.
"I figured we had all the momentum, and if we didn't break the tie in the sixth, we'd win the game in the seventh."
Had Ho been able to come up with the low throw, Scheiner would've been out at the plate. Ho was forced into catching duties because all-leaguer Ryan Haug was held out because of a concussion suffered in a game May 9.
The Pumas scored single runs in the first and second only to see Rancho come back with a four-spot in the fourth.
The big hit in the Cougars' uprising was an opposite field double with the bases-loaded by Tanner Goldman.
Rancho upped the advantage to 5-2 in the sixth as Goldman's single knocked in Ho.
Carrillo then stormed back by putting five consecutive runners on base to start the home half of the inning.
Derek Schmidt, Peter Hoge and Scheiner came up with base hits and Massimo Smaldino and Vijay Patel walked.
After winning relief pitcher Alec Rennard struck out the side to end the game, losing coach John Morrow could only shake his head.
"We outplayed 'em," he said. "It's been this way all year for us. We've lost seven one-run games. We didn't play smart in the field and we didn't make a couple of plays we should've made.
"Also, it's tough to overcome the loss of a catcher like Haug."
The Cougars wound up with seven hits, one more than Carrillo.
Rancho, which tied with Cardinal Newman for the league's regular season title last year, is now 12-13. Morrow expects his team will get an invite to NCS, but it will be a low seed.
Carrillo was second behind the Cardinals this season and takes an 18-7 record into Friday's game.
Pitcher Connor Williams was the hero Wednesday for Newman. He limited Montgomery to two hits.
Mark Peterson scored the only run Williams would need in the second. The final two runs came across in the fifth.