NBL softball: Pumas continue winning ways

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sometimes a trip out of town can do wonders. It certainly has done the trick for Maria Carrillo.

The Pumas, after going to Hayward last week to play in the Standley Cup where they finished second, have returned to Sonoma County a better team.

On Thursday, they won their second game in three days by pummeling visiting Santa Rosa, 9-3. Tuesday, they won a road game at Ukiah and improved to 3-1 in the NBL.

“We got the spark in Hayward,” center fielder Rochelle Schulze said.

The senior went 3-for-4 against Santa Rosa and hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

“We played with a lot of energy in the tournament and it’s carried over since we got back home,” Schulze said.

The Pumas didn’t look like the same team that limped down to Hayward after dropping a 10-1 decision to Rancho Cotate. In that game, they committed three errors and had only three hits.

Thursday, they banged out nine hits and committed one error while improving their record to 9-5 and 3-1 in league.

Mikaela Francis got Carrillo off to a fast start as she blasted a two-run home run in the first inning.

“It was a pitch high and outside and I just went with it to the opposite field,” the shortstop said. The ball easily cleared the 200-foot fence in left-center field.

After that, losing pitcher Denia Vera wanted nothing to do with Francis. The three-sport athlete walked in her final three trips to the plate.

The Pumas added another run in the second inning and then struck for six in the fourth. Schulze’s homer was the big blow and pitcher Robin Johnson and first baseman Shelby Holsworth contributed singles.

Santa Rosa finally broke through against Johnson in the fifth, scoring its three runs.

Pumas’ coach Lonnie Harwell has also seen a change in his team.

“We’re definitely a more confident group,” he said. “In Hayward, we scored 15 runs against both Bishop O’Dowd and Arroyo and lost close games to two of the better teams in Northern California, Petaluma and Pinole Valley.

“Against Santa Rosa, we were hitting the ball and that’s a key to our being successful. When we put runners on base and put pressure on the other team’s defense, good things happen.”

Johnson, who pitched a complete game, said the early-run support made her job easier.

“With the early three-run lead, I just relaxed and concentrated on throwing strikes.” she said.

“The cushion really helped me out.”

The junior finished with nine strikeouts. She walked two and gave up seven hits, five of those in the fifth inning.

While Maria Carrillo’s fortunes are on the upswing after visiting the Bay Area, an out-of-town trip hasn’t helped Santa Rosa.

The Panthers were in Antioch last weekend where they had three double-digit wins over Antioch, Albany and Las Lomas before losing 1-0 to Concord in the championship game of the HASA Tournament.

“I was disappointed with our effort against Carrillo,” coach Jeff Pratt said. “For some reason that makes no sense to me, we don’t play our best ball in league games when it counts the most.”

The Panthers are now 1-3 in the NBL and 8-5 overall.

Santa Rosa dressed only nine players Thursday. The roster was trimmed when two failed to make minimum grades, another moved out of the area and pitcher Johanna Peelen was unavailable because of elbow problems.

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