Thomsen's one-hit gem not enough in NCS title game

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

NOVATO — A week from now, they’ll probably be talking about the feat Dana Thomsen accomplished Saturday on Gary Gates Memorial Field at San Marin High School. Thomsen pitched a one-hitter in the North Coast Section Division 2 championship game and, in effect, no-hit the Minutemen after surrendering a leadoff double to Kelsey Randall to open the game.

After the game, though, the Trojans weren’t entirely focused on Thomsen’s gem, because the one-hitter wasn’t enough. Petaluma stranded eight runners and lost 2-1, failing in its bid for back-to-back section titles.

It was Concord’s second softball championship in three years.

The Trojans took a 24-3 record into the final, but the brilliant mark masked a pattern. They — and especially Thomsen — have frequently fallen into a hole early, only to battle back for victories.

The pattern re-emerged as fifth-seeded Concord touched No. 3 Petaluma for two runs in the first inning. With one out and runners on first and second, the Trojans were victimized by a perfect squeeze bunt executed by cleanup hitter Shelby Hotting, and then a passed ball that Petaluma players felt should have been ruled a foul tip. The umpires disagreed after a conference, and the Trojans were staring at a 2-0 deficit.

They fought back for a run in the third inning as senior Chelsea Martin led off the inning with a single, and advanced to third base when a Concord throw went into the dugout. Martin scored on a groundout by freshman Meghan DeCoite.

Meanwhile, Thomsen had found her command. After Hotting wound up on first on her squeeze bunt, Thomsen retired 17 consecutive batters — eight of them strikeouts, and five of those on called third strikes. At one point in the second and third innings, she fanned four straight Minutemen, continually getting ahead in the count.

“I don’t think she gets all the credit she deserves,” Petaluma third baseman Allie Corids said of Thomsen, a junior. “She comes out here and throws amazing games. Sometimes the offense can’t back her up and it’s unfortunate, because she pitches a hell of a game all the time.”

Thomsen seemed to tire a bit in the late innings and got into some trouble in the seventh as Concord got two runners aboard, on a throwing error by Corids followed by a walk. But the Petaluma infield quickly doused the threat.

The Trojans, for their part, started to mount the late-inning attack that has defined their season. They had runners on first and second with one out in the fourth, got two hits in the fifth, got runners to second and third with two outs in the sixth, and put girls on first and second with one out in the seventh.

“We’re not a team to just drop down and quit,” Corids said. “We’re always a team to come back and fight, even in the last inning like you saw us do. Our team’s just really strong. Just sometimes it doesn’t happen the way you want it to.”

Each time, the Minutemen found a way to escape.

In the fifth, for example, centerfielder Randall threw behind the Trojans’ T.J. Watts at second base after a single by Nicole Wiecks and nailed Watts on a close play to end the inning. In the seventh, with the partisan Petaluma crowd in a frenzy and a stiff wind blowing dust devils in the infield dirt, Concord pitcher Jenna Leavitt induced a popup by Wiecks and then retired Corids on a groundout to shortstop to finish the game.

“We had the right girl up, Allie,” Petaluma coach Kurt Jastrow said. “I’d put Allie up, or Chelsea, or T.J., anytime with the game on the line.”

Leavitt wasn’t overpowering. She gave up six hits, hit two batters, walked one and struck out two while going the distance. But she made the pitches when she had to, and was backed by crisp defense.

After the game, as the Petaluma coaches were addressing their players — some of them for the last time — a Concord fan interrupted to congratulate the Trojans on a fine game, and to suggest that the wind had hurt their chances. Indeed, a couple of well-hit balls to center seemed to get hung up in the currents.

Saturday’s loss represented the end of the line for three Petaluma seniors who have helped reinvent the program — Corids, Watts and Martin, who have known one another since they were 10 years old. Even in the bitterness of defeat, they were able to recognize their accomplishments.

“We got on this roll last year — it’s just like, they’re winners,” Jastrow said. “I mean, the last two years we’ve been 45-8. We’ve been to two NCS finals. They’re winners. And I actually thought we had a great chance to pull that game out.”

Corids, whom Jastrow calls one of the finest players he has ever coached, will play at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs next year, Watts at Sacramento State. Martin, who cut her ear when she collided with a Concord runner in the seventh inning, will attend UC Davis but does not intend to play intercollegiate softball.

“Even just going to the championship game the past two years has been amazing,” Martin said.

“I’m just really proud of my team this year, and I love all the girls. The saddest part for me really isn’t losing this game, it’s knowing that it’s all over.”

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil [dot] barber [at] pressdemocrat [dot] com.