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NCS Softball Playoffs: Cougars come up short as senior Kibbe pitches well enough to win

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Pitching well enough to win, Katy Kibbe worked to will Rancho Cotate to victory, but Concord scratched out a victory in another playoff contest between the softball powers.

The lone senior in the Cougars lineup, Kibbe controlled Concord’s hot hitting lineup and reached base three times to rally Rancho Cotate. The difference was a Cougars rally that fell short and Minutemen shots on the bases and at bat for the 1-0 win Friday.

“It’s a great rivalry. It’s always fun, but its better if we win,” Kibbe said. “It just goes that way sometimes.”

Another veteran of this postseason rivalry drove in the contest’s only run. Mickey Loveridge stroked a double to score Kelsey Randall.

“It was definitely payback. You have to have a winning attitude against them,” Loveridge said.

Meeting three times in the playoffs the past four seasons, Rancho Cotate won last season’s game by a run over Concord.

Both teams approached the contest knowing runs would be scarce. For Rancho Cotate to gain an edge, the Cougars sought to wait out challenging but sometimes wild Jenna Leavitt. Concord needed to stay off Kibbe’s rise and curve balls.

With just eight hits between the two teams, pitching was strong on both sides. The game would be decided by the team that struck early.

A leadoff single from left fielder Taylor Haug and a hit by pitch on Kristine Ricossa had Rancho Cotate poised to score in the first inning. After loading the bases, the Cougars hit into a force out at home and finished with a strikeout.

“We can hit, we just didn’t,” Haug said.

Giving up two of Concord’s six hits in the second inning, Kibbe was tough, getting a groundball out and popup to end the threat.

Speed and hitting produced the games only run an inning later.

Leadoff hitter Kelsey Randall hit a shot that was bobbled by the Cougars’ second baseman and she beat the throw. After stealing second base, Randall scored on Loveridge’s hit, stroked hard enough through the middle for her to reach second base.

What momentum Rancho Cotate could generate was stifled by inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth, both off hits that appeared to have a chance of falling in.

“We figured it would be close. I guess we were a little bit too aggressive today,” Kibbe said.

A late spring rain stopped play for about 30 minutes.

Players were thinking the teams would be forced to finish on another day as they had last season. A year ago, Rancho Cotate hosted Concord in a quarterfinal and the game was suspended due to rain and completed three days later. The Cougars won.

Concord was determined to change the result this time.

“We definitely thought here we go again, but we knew the outcome wasn’t going to be the same,” Loveridge said.

The Minutemen knew Kibbe would be formidable. Indeed she was, yielding only one walk and striking out six.

While disappointing, the close loss to a senior-laden team makes Rancho Cotate hungry for next season.

“We let Katy down,” Haug said. “But if we can all just work a little bit harder, it will be good.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.