The Montgomery softball team picked a great time to play its best game of the season as the Vikings defeated Rancho Cotate, 8-1, in the championship game of the NBL Tournament on Thursday at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Top-seeded Rancho, winners of the regular season league title, was never in the game.
Montgomery led 6-0 after two innings and the power-hitting Cougars were unable to solve Vikings’ pitcher Anna Zoia-Buescher. The sophomore tossed an array of off-speed pitches that confounded opposing batters.
“The Rancho hitters were swinging for the fences and Anna fed them an assortment of change-ups and off-speed pitches,” coach Mike Malvino said.
The Cougars popped up seven balls on the infield and didn’t have an extra-base hit. Over 22 regular season games, they belted 35 home runs.
“Our catcher Sierra Shanoff, the coaches and I got together to discuss strategy,” Zoia-Buescher said. “We didn’t want to give the Rancho players a chance to hit it over the fence, so we decided I’d throw off-speed pitches and put nothing over the plate.
“Sierra called a great game and my teammates backed me up with good defense.” The Vikings played error-free ball.
Zoia-Buescher helped herself with the bat. She led off the game with a triple that started a four-run uprising. Other keys to the inning were a double by Shanoff and a two-run infield error on Ashley Baker’s ground ball.
Then in the fourth, Zoia-Buescher singled and trotted home on Shanoff’s home run over the left-field fence.
Shanoff and Zoia-Buescher had three hits apiece as Montgomery reached Rancho starter KT Hager and reliever Brittney Scardina for 10 hits.
The Cougars collected eight hits with three of those coming off the bat of Katie Rohrer.
“It was our best game of the year,” Malvino said. “We played with high-energy and had great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.”
Cougars coach Tracey Poueu-Guerrero left the field frustrated.
“The girls didn’t come to play today,” she said.
Rancho (18-6) will receive an invitation to next week’s North Coast Section Tournament after winning the regular season title. Montgomery (21-5), the second place finisher in the NBL, is sure to receive an invitation.
In the SCL softball tournament final:
SONOMA VALLEY 10, PETALUMA 9
The Dragons avenged two regular season losses to the Trojans by winning the championship game of the league tourney.
Sonoma lost the two previous games by identical 3-0 scores and were shut out the first three innings on Thursday.
While they snapped the scoreless streak with a five-run fourth inning, the Dragons still found themselves trailing, 8-6, heading to the seventh inning.
Sonoma (17-9) loaded the bases and then took advantage of an error and passed ball to put four runs on the scoreboard.
Petaluma (16-10) came back to score one and the game ended with the Trojans having the tying and winning run on base.
“It was a roller-coaster ride,” Sonoma coach Dean Merrill said. “It turned out we were the last ones standing.
“We knew we had to try something different and we played small ball. We were able to keep the pressure on their defense.”