Empire softball roundup: Cardinal Newman wraps up perfect league season

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On Thursday afternoon, events unfolded perfectly for the Cardinal Newman girls softball squad. The host Cardinals’ 10-0 victory over Piner wrapped up an undefeated North Bay League-Redwood Division season to put a bow on their previously clinched league title as they showcased their seniors.

“We have four seniors (Keegan Smith, Haley Titone, Mikayla McCormick and Carissa Pisors) who have been with me since I started (as head coach) four years ago,” Cardinal Newman coach Bill Vreeland said. “This group of seniors is pretty special to me because of that connection.”

Cardinal Newman (17-4, 10-0) made quick work of the fourth-place Prospectors (4-13, 3-7), with four runs in the first inning and six runs combined in innings two through four.

Meanwhile, Cardinals starter Smith (four innings, two hits, five strikeouts) was in complete control over Piner batters.

“Keegan threw a lot of strikes and got ahead in the count early,” Vreeland said. “She didn’t walk anybody and she was in total control.”

Titone (3 for 3, double, RBI, three runs) led the Cardinals’ senior contingent at the plate.

“Haley is an incredibly consistent, clutch player,” Vreeland said.

Cardinal Newman will be the top seed when the NBL-Redwood postseason tournament gets underway on Tuesday.

“We were able to reach our goal to win the league, finish strong and win our games in the league,” Vreeland said. “We still have a lot of goals to reach and today was a first step.”

Rancho Cotate 5, Analy 1

The NBL-Oak Division regular-season champion Cougars (17-3, 9-1) scored three runs in the first inning and two more in the second inning, which was all they needed to put away the visiting Tigers (9-11-1, 5-5), tied for third, in their final regular-season league game.

“These girls came into the season with great chemistry and continue to strive on that chemistry,” Rancho Cotate coach Tracy Poueu-Guerrero said of her team.

Starting Cougars pitcher Kaylee Drake (win, seven innings, run, five hits, five strikeouts) stymied the Tigers’ hitters most of the day.

“Kaylee has been our rock all season,” Poueu-Guerrero said. “She had great control of the game today. Her curveball was working and so was her screwball.”

Rancho Cotate hitters roughed up Analy starter Carson Rasmussen (loss, six innings, five runs, eight hits), especially in the early innings.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Cougars started a rally with the bases empty and two outs. Tatum Maytorena (2 for 4, two RBIs, run) tripled and scored on a double by Makayla Barnes. Drake drove in Barnes with a single and eventually came around to score the third run of the inning on an Analy error.

Tiare Guerrero was 2 for 4 with a run for the Cougars.

Montgomery 14, Ukiah 2

The host Vikings (12-12, 5-5), tied for third place, defeated the last-place Wildcats (4-15, 0-10) by pounding out 14 runs in the first three innings for an NBL-Oak victory.

“The girls had a lot of energy,” said Montgomery coach Mike Malvino, who is retiring at the end of this season after 19 years as Vikings head coach and 24 years with the program overall. “The girls knew it was my last league game that I was coaching, so they took that to heart,” Malvino said.

Montgomery starter Ali Axthelm (win, four innings, two runs, four hits) induced Wildcats batters into 12 ground-ball outs.

“Ali’s drop ball was making them (Ukiah) hit a lot of ground balls,” Malvino said. “Her drop curve was working very well.”

In the second inning, the Vikings’ Maddie Larson (3 for 3, HR, double, three RBIs, three runs) and Axthelm (2 for 2, HR, triple, RBI, two runs) hit back-to-back solo homers to jump-start Montgomery.

The Vikings’ win slots them into the fourth spot in the NBL-Oak four-team postseason tournament. Montgomery will play at top-seeded Rancho Cotate on Tuesday.

“That will be a challenge — Rancho is a good team,” Malvino said. “I hope we can at least give them a battle.”

Windsor 6, Maria Carrillo 3

In an NBL-Oak game, the visiting Jaguars (12-7, 7-3) relied on a five-run third inning to carry them to victory over the fifth-place Pumas (10-10, 4-6).

Napa 11, Sonoma Valley 6

In a Vine Valley Athletic League game, the visiting fifth-place Dragons (11-11, 5-6) held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning but could not close the door as the first-place Grizzlies (13-7, 8-3) rallied for four runs in both the fifth and sixth innings for the comeback victory.

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