NBL softball: Rancho Cotate rallies past Cardinal Newman

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancho Cotate and Cardinal Newman battled in a North Bay League softball showdown Tuesday with the Cougars rallying for the 7-6 win.

After a five-run inning carried Cardinal Newman into the lead, Rancho Cotate came back in their final turn at the plate.

Keilani Fronda belted a game-tying double. Then she hustled to score from second base on a groundout, knocking the ball loose on her slide into home plate for the victory.

“I don’t like to lose. I wanted to get our team back in it and pumped again,” Fronda said. “I just tried to slide hard and hope for the best.”

Cardinal Newman again showed it is a North Bay League contender, pushing perennial power Rancho Cotate despite playing without two top hitters who also anchor the defense.

“We didn’t play our best. We’ll just put it behind us,” said Giulia Geary, a senior leader for the young Cardinals.

Each squad committed four errors. Poor baserunning cut short rallies on both sides.

Young starting pitchers on both sides had solid outings. Rancho Cotate hurler Kazja Fa’agata-Averbuck challenged batters, yielding an unearned run before losing command of the strike zone in the sixth inning. Lexie Raasch threw strikes and weathered a formidable lineup, keeping Cardinal Newman close.

Leading the Rancho Cotate attack was a trio of newcomers. Freshman designated hitter Vickie Espinoza had three hits including a pair of doubles to knock in three runs. Another freshman, Katie Rohrer, had a solo home run. Fa’agata-Averbuck, a sophomore, had two hits and an RBI.

“We’re coming together really well,” Espinoza said. “We knew we could come back. We definitely have the talent. We just had to get our heads back into the game.”

Even younger, Cardinal Newman starts a handful of freshman and sophomores. Yet the Cardinals play with confidence beyond their years.

“We’ve all come out and worked hard. It’s showing on the field,” Geary said. “We just have to play our hardest from the beginning of games.”

Opening the game with a pair of singles, including the first of three Geary hits, Cardinal Newman came up empty. A runners’ interference call was sandwiched between a groundout and fly out.

The first of Espinoza’s doubles scored Kristine Ricossa and Fa’agata-Averbuck for Ranco Cotate with two out in the first inning.

Cardinal Newman got on the scoreboard in the third inning. Geary singled, moved to second on an error and then third on an infield single by Kayla Douglas. Geary scampered home when the throw went to second base on a successful Douglas steal.

Rancho Cotate answered with a fourth run, aided by a pair of Cardinals errors. But nice plays by Victoria Dobbins at second base and Douglas at shortstop kept Cardinal Newman close.

Adding another two out run gave Rancho Cotate a seemingly comfortable 5-1 lead.

But four base on balls and two errors allowed Cardinal Newman to score five in the sixth on only two infield hits.

“They’re very determined. They don’t give up,” said Cardinal Newman coach Jerry Briggs.

Silencing the rally was Becca LaFrancois. The senior right hander induced a popup and fly out to end the inning. Then she stranded a base runner in the seventh to set up Rancho Cotate’s walk off win.

“We can score runs,” said Rancho Cotate coach Dave Johnson. “We have to play defense to win.”

Pulling out a win without playing sharp enough is a good sign, said Fronda.

“There’s good competition in this league,” she said. “We just need to stay focused and not give up.”

 

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