By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
After pitching dominated the two regular-season meetings between the Ukiah and Rancho Cotate softball teams, Thursday’s NBL tournament championship game at Santa Rosa High was quite a departure.
Rancho (20-6) won 16-8 in a slugfest and ended Ukiah’s 17-game winning streak. The Wildcats (21-5) hadn’t lost since a preseason defeat on March 20 to Las Plumas (Oroville).
Ukiah earns the NCS Division II playoffs automatic bid by virtue of winning the NBL regular season.
During the season the teams combined for a two-game run total of 10 (4-3 Ukiah win, 3-0 Rancho win). In Thursday’s game the squads combined for 24 runs, 36 hits (Rancho 22) and 13 errors (Ukiah eight).
“Playing each other a third time, both teams made adjustments. With 36 hits, the game was all offense and not much pitching,” Ukiah coach Gary Venturi said. “Both teams booted the ball around a little bit in the field.”
Visiting Rancho took charge immediately against Ukiah starter Delaney Kindopp (L, 15-2) with eight consecutive one-out singles to plate six runs in the first inning.
“Those hits kind of set the tone for us,” Cougars coach Tracey Poueu-Guerrero said. “When our girls are aggressive at the plate and don’t take too many pitches, they can hit.”
Staked to a big lead, Rancho starter Brittney Scardina (W, 15-5) surrender hits to her first three batters, including two doubles. Two Cougars fielding errors followed, leading to three Ukiah runs to halve Rancho’s lead to 6-3.
“I don’t know what was going on with us in the field today,” Poueu-Guerrero said. “I take it as just nerves.”
Rancho added two-spots in the second and third innings to take a 10-3 lead but Ukiah countered with two runs in each of the 4th and 5th innings to make it a 10-7 game.
The Cougars, however, rallied for six runs in the final two innings and put the game away 16-8.
“Rancho made good adjustments at the plate,” Venturi said. “They went with pitches and hit the ball really well, give them credit.”
With all the runs, there were multiple offensive stars for each school.
The Wildcats were led offensively by Brooke Wright (3-5, 3 RBI), Mykala Ramsey (2-5, 4 runs scored), Kaylah Pardini (3-5, 2 runs scored) and Rylie Loflin (2-4, 2 RBI, run scored).
The Cougars were led by Malia Kuka (4-5, 3 RBI, run scored), Scardina (3-5, RBI, run scored), Reilani Peleti (3-5, RBI, 3 runs scored), and Katie Rohrer (3-5, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored).
“It feels great to win the (NBL) tournament,” Poupeu-Guerrero said. “I’m looking forward to the NCS and hope our girls will stay on the hitting train.”