NBL softball: Fa’agata-Averbuck leads Rancho past Windsor

SCOTT MANCHESTER / The Press Democrat Rancho Cotate's  Kazja Fa'agata-Averbuck pitched a complete game with no earned runs to beat Windsor 7-2.

SCOTT MANCHESTER / The Press Democrat
Rancho Cotate’s Kazja Fa’agata-Averbuck pitched a complete game with no earned runs to beat Windsor 7-2.

By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

ROHNERT PARK — You know you had a good day on the softball diamond if you pitched a complete game for a win, gave up no earned runs and hit a home run.

Such was the case Thursday afternoon for sophomore pitcher Kazja Fa’agata-Averbuck, who propelled Rancho Cotate to a 7-2 home victory over Windsor to successfully cap its first half of the North Bay League season. The win keeps Rancho (9-5, 6-1) in at least a first-place tie in the NBL with Maria Carrillo.

“I had a lot of snap on the ball and was hitting my locations,” Fa’agata-Averbuck said. “Pitching with a lead makes me more relaxed.”

Rancho took advantage of four critical Windsor (7-5, 3-3) errors to cash in three unearned runs. The Jaguars’ infield had trouble with multiple routine grounders and it cost them.

“We consider our defense the strongest part of our game. Today was not Jaguar defense, not even close,” Windsor coach Shannon Pellman said. “When you don’t score much, defense is your bread and butter.”

Rancho scored two runs in the second after a errors by the Jaguars put the first two batters on base. A two-RBI single by Rancho’s Taylor Haug was the big blow.

“When someone is giving you free stuff you have to take advantage of it,” Rancho coach Dave Johnson said of the Jaguars’ errors.

Windsor starting pitcher Melany Duty was pulled after two innings due to concerns about an ailing knee. Rachelle Butuila came in to pitch the rest of the game.

The Jaguars tied it in the fourth after Rancho committed all three of its errors in the inning. Becca Steiner plated a run with a sacrifice fly and Jaguars teammate Danielle Funez drove in the other run with a single.

Rancho retook the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth inning on another unearned run. Leading 3-2, the Cougars put the game away with four more runs (all earned), two in the fifth inning and two in the sixth.

“Rancho took advantage of us today. They are a great team,” Pellman said.

“They were great at aggressive base-running. Any mistake we made they just punished us.”

The unearned runs notwithstanding, Windsor batters struggled to mount much offense against Fa’agata-Averbuck for most of the game.

“(Fa’agata-Averbuck) pitched really well. She had a little better velocity early on but she was able to finish the game,” Johnson said. “She plays great defense for us, too.”

Fa’agata-Averbuck pitched seven innings, giving up zero earned runs and striking out three. But it was Fa’agata-Averbuck’s solo round-tripper in the sixth inning that generated the most excitement.

The high, arching fly cleared the mesh fence in left field by a few feet despite a valiant effort by Jaguars left-fielder Realle Jones, who tumbled head-first over the fence in an attempt to snag the ball.

“I have been waiting for a home run for a long time, so it is great to finally get it,” Fa’agata-Averbuck said.

The run was icing on an already finished cake, making the score 7-2 in favor of Rancho late in the game. It was a fitting end to an already satisfying day for Fa’agata-Averbuck.

“It was a really nice hit,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to get her to elevate the ball more because she is so strong.”

As for Windsor, it’s back to basics on defense.

“Make no mistake, we will fix our defense,” Pellman said. “This is not acceptable in any way, shape or form, and the girls know it. We will get back to Jaguar defense.”

 

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