Saturday's North Coast Section Division 6 softball championship is a rematch of the 2015 title game, pitting the top two seeds against each other in a winner-take-all battle.
Laytonville, 10-0 in the North Central League III and 16-5 overall, comes in as the top seed, while Rincon Valley Christian, 3-7 in the NCL II and 8-10 overall, is ranked No. 2.
Both won first-round games Tuesday to advance to the four-team bracket’s title game. First pitch is at 1 p.m. in Laytonville.
Rincon Valley hopes Saturday’s title game turns out better than last year’s.
In that game, Laytonville downed the Eagles 17-11 to take the crown. This will be the third consecutive championship game appearance for Rincon Valley, which lost to California School for the Deaf in 2014.
“They’ve been working hard all year trying to get to this point,” said Eagles coach Shane Peterson. “They still have a little work to do.”
Peterson, whose daughters Jackie and Courtney play on the team, has seven seniors on the roster. He hopes they will bring the extra incentive needed to defeat the Warriors on their home turf.
To do that, Rincon Valley will have to shut down Laytonville’s stars, pitcher-utility player Cassie Homer and center fielder Bronwyn Gilfillan, both of whom are batting .500.
Coach Jennifer Davis said both players are hard workers who never give up.
Homer is the Warriors’ ace, with a 13-3 record and 2.38 earned run average. She has pitched 92 of the team’s 107 total innings played.
Just a sophomore, she has three home runs and has knocked in 18 runs this season, second only to Gilfillan’s 26 RBIs.
Gilfillan, also a sophomore, can hit for power and hustle for an extra base. She has hit four doubles, three triples and two homers this year.
“She’s probably the fastest player in the whole league,” Davis said.
Most of the Warriors have played together since they were 7 years old. There are no seniors and only one junior on the squad.
“They are really good as a team. They really back each other up,” Davis said, citing the leadership of sophomore captains Hailey Finnegan and Lily Peterson.
As a team, Laytonville hits .349 and has five players hitting better than .400. They’ve cracked seven home runs this year.
Rincon Valley will counter with the hot bats of Jackie Peterson and Natella Guy, who between the two share the top hitting categories on the team.
Peterson, a junior pitcher, shortstop and utility player, is hitting .646 and has 19 RBIs. She has hit four of the team’s five home runs.
Guy, a senior who can play both infield and outfield, brings a .468 average and 21 RBIs.
Coach Peterson said he hopes his team rises to the occasion, which it has had trouble with at times this year.
“We’ve definitely had some ups and downs. We’ve had some great games with some good teams and some not-so-good games with lesser teams,” he said. “We seem to play to our level of competition. Laytonville is a good team, so hopefully, we’ll do OK.”
The teams know a little bit about each other, having met on April 5 in a doubleheader.