Empire softball: Rancho Cotate no-hitter silences Ukiah

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Two Rancho Cotate softball pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter against Ukiah Thursday, just one walk away from a perfect game.

Rancho won, 10-0, in a five-inning game shortened by the fairness rule.

Starter Kaylee Drake went three perfect innings for the host Cougars, striking out six Wildcats and overpowering them with her fastball.

Izzy Luevano came on in relief in the fourth, throwing a three-up, three-down inning. She walked the leadoff batter in the fifth on a full count, then struck out the side to end the game.

The walk was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect pitching performance by the Cougars, who are now 3-1 in the North Bay League-Oak Division and 5-3 overall.

Ukiah falls to 0-3 and 3-8.

Coach Tracey Poueu-Guerrero said when Drake is on, she’s tough.

“When all her pitches are working, she’s great,” Poueu-Guerrero said. “When they’re not, we make adjustments. The team feels secure when she is pitching.”

The only adjustments Rancho had to make Thursday were to bring in subs to get additional playing time.

“Izzy didn’t miss a step,” Poueu-Guerrero said. “It was nice to see her throw some innings.”

Drake is now 6-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 50 innings over eight games.

The team is averaging 6.75 runs a game in support.

Though Rancho has been known more as a power-hitting team, this year the Cougars are full of speedy left-handed hitters, including the first four batters: Cayla Nixon, Tiare Guerrero, Tatum Maytorena and Makayla Barnes.

The Cougars lost only one starter from last year’s 10-4 first-place finish in the North Bay League (tied with Montgomery and Casa Grande.)

Ukiah, 9-5 in the NBL last year, lost six seniors and has a new coach, Julie Whiteaker.

She knew Rancho and Drake would be tough.

“The have good pitching, like a lot of teams in the league,” she said. “It was pretty tough today.”

The Wildcats have been putting runs on the board, also averaging more than 6 runs a game. But they just never could get anything started Thursday.

The Cougars jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning off Wildcats starter Kelly-Ann McKeown, who has only been pitching since February, her coach noted.

Nixon drew a leadoff walk and Tiare Guerrero followed with a bunt for an infield hit before Maytorena drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases.

Barnes then hit a single up the middle to score Nixon and Guerrero to take a 2-0 lead.

Drake hit a comebacker to McKeown, who tried to catch Maytorena coming home, but she was able to scamper back to third safely.

Talia Guerrero hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed Maytorena to score, Barnes came around on a wild pitch and Kenadi Akin singled up the middle to bring home Drake to lead 5-0.

Rancho scored another three runs in the third inning on three hits, including a leadoff double by Drake that was just feet from going over the left field fence.

Another two runs in the fourth made it 10. When Ukiah couldn’t muster a run in the fifth, the game was called.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or On Twitter @loriacarter.

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