Ukiah rolls into NCS softball playoffs

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
 

In an NBL softball game Thursday between teams traveling in opposite directions, streaking Ukiah blasted host Montgomery, 16-1, in a game shortened to six innings.
 

For the Wildcats, it was a sixth straight win and gives them momentum going into next week's North Coast Section playoffs. For the Vikings, it marked a fifth straight loss and the end of the season.
 

While Montgomery coach Mike Malvino was downtrodden following a brief meeting with his team, Ukiah coach Gary Venturi was sporting a grin from ear-to-ear on the opposite side of the field.
 

“Things are coming together at the right time for us,” he said. “We’ve told the girls all year that if we get good hitting and pitching and play good defense, we should be able to win.
“During this winning streak, we’ve been doing all three.”
 

Malvino said: “This will be the first time in eight years a Montgomery team isn't going to the playoffs. “We needed a win to finish above .500 to become tournament eligible and we wound up 11-12.
“A game like this is a disappointing way to end the season. We’ve been on top a lot of years, and with only two seniors on this team, we knew it would be a rebuilding season.”
 

On Thursday, Ukiah scored in all but the second inning. They put an exclamation point on the game by scoring eight runs in the sixth. The Wildcats pounded out seven hits, including four doubles.
 

Madison Klee and Katie Smallcomb led the barrage, each picking up a single and double in the inning.
 

Klee also had a good afternoon pitching. The junior hurled all six innings and gave up only three hits.
 

Another hero for the Wildcats was No. 9 hitter Raquel Contreras. She hit a homer, drove in six runs and went 3-for-3.
 

The junior’s bat has come alive at the same time the winning streak began. Monday, she hit her first home run of the season against Piner.
 

“My problem earlier in the season was that I wasn’t watching the ball,” Contreras said. “Correcting that has made a big difference. This was my best game of the season, for sure.”
 

Ukiah banged out 17 hits against Montgomery pitchers Hannah Boxerman and Hannah Tracy.
 

The Vikings got on the scoreboard in the fifth. Hayley Komrij singled and scored on pinch-hitter Lauren Averill's double.
Montgomery finished league play with a 5-8 mark.
With three league wins in four days this week, Ukiah improved to 10-4, good for third behind Rancho Cotate and Maria Carrillo.

Overall, the Wildcats are 18-5 heading to NCS.