NCS softball: Opportunistic Petaluma knocks off American 3-1


Petaluma's Brie Gerhardt, left, gets ready to slide into home plate during Wednesday's NCS playoff game against American. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

Petaluma’s Brie Gerhardt, left, gets ready to slide into home plate during Wednesday’s NCS playoff game against American. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

PETALUMA — It’s a rarity that a batter can manage a hit while being intentionally walked, but the Trojans’ Joelle Krist did exactly that on Wednesday afternoon and it proved to be a pivotal play in Petaluma’s 3-1 victory over American of Fremont in the first round of the NCS Division 2 softball playoffs.

The win advances the No. 5-seeded Trojans to the second round of the playoffs to be played at No. 4-seeded Livermore on Friday at 4 p.m.

Against No. 12-seeded American from the Mission Valley Athletic League, the host Trojans (21-6) fell behind early, as the Eagles (14-11) took a 1-0 lead thanks to a home-run to center field by Katarina Henretty off Petaluma freshman starting pitcher Emily O’Keefe.

See game photos here

“It was a changeup over the plate and she (Henretty) went down and got it,” O’Keefe said.

The American lead didn’t last for long. Enter Krist, who as a junior has a verbal commitment to play at the University of Arizona for 2015. With two out in the bottom of the third and Kailee Silacci on second, American starting pitcher Kim Nelson began the standard process for issuing an intentional walk. However, on a 2-0 pitch Nelson threw the ball within swinging range of Krist (11 homers, 46 RBIs during the regular season) who smashed the ball up the middle for a single to plate Silacci and tie the score 1-1.

“Krist is a great hitter,” Petaluma coach Kurt Jastrow said. “With her I let her do whatever she wants at the plate.”

“The (failed) intentional walk was the critical play. That got Petaluma going and we lost our momentum,” American coach Steve Thompson said. “Krist is an overall great player. Her hitting is just phenomenal. She is fun to watch.”

On the hit by Krist (3-for-3, RBI), the Eagles’ center fielder made an ill-advised throw to home in an unsuccessful attempt to get Silacci.

The throw was wild and Krist went to third and scored when Miranda Swanson reached base on an errant throw by the American second baseman on a grounder.

The two defensive errors in the inning compounded American’s mistakes on the base-paths as two Eagles were picked off trying to take second in the early innings.

“Petaluma hit the ball extremely well,” Thompson said. “But we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”

Leading 2-1, Petaluma tacked on another run in the fifth. Brie Gerhardt (2-for-3) missed a homer by inches and doubled off the wall in center field with one out.

Gerhardt made it to third on a passed ball and then scored on a wild pitch.

“I knew we needed an insurance run, so if that ball rolled from the catcher a foot away, I was going,” Gerhardt said. “On the double, I thought it was going out, but I was happy to get on base.”

O’Keefe went the complete game for the win, giving up one earned run and striking out six.

“My curve was working and I had good movement,” O’Keefe said. “My fastball was hitting the inside corner.”

Nelson also went the distance but took the loss. Similar to O’Keefe, Nelson surrendering one earned run and fanned six. Neither pitcher issued a walk.

“My pitcher had an off day,” Thompson said.

“The Petaluma pitcher was getting us to chase pitches and mixing locations.”

O’Keefe is slated to start again on Friday against Livermore (12-13), which is from the highly-regarded East Bay Athletic League.

“We are pretty evenly matched with Livermore, we just need to get hits at the right time,” Gerhardt said.

“If Emily pitches like she did today, I know we will be contenders for the win on Friday.”

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