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NCS playoff roundup: Maria Carrillo tops Casa Grande to reach baseball final

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If ever there was a hot team peaking at the right time in the North Coast Section baseball playoffs, it would be fourth-seeded Maria Carrillo.

On Friday night in front of a huge home crowd, the Pumas thumped visiting eighth-seeded Casa Grande 7-1 in a Division 2 semifinal. Maria Carrillo has won 10 of its last 12 games and is in high-performance mode.

“We are playing our best baseball at the perfect time — it is a thing of beauty,” Maria Carrillo coach Sam Bruno said. “We are executing on all aspects of the game.”

The Pumas (19-9) will host 10th-seeded Benecia Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the championship.

“With the way Maria Carrillo is playing right now, they have a really good chance to win the championship,” Casa Grande (15-12) coach Chad Fillinger said. “That was a good team we played tonight.”

Maria Carrillo chalked up six runs in the bottom of the third inning to sink the Gauchos.

“Our one through nine hitters had tough at-bats and timely hitting,” Bruno said. “We had great plate discipline and pitch selection.”

While the Pumas had six hits, they benefited from 11 walks issued by Gauchos pitchers.

“It is hard to win games giving up 11 walks,” Fillinger said. “To Maria Carrillo’s credit, they executed. When they needed to get hits, they got them.”

Maria Carrillo starter Connor Charpiot (6 innings, run, 4 hits, 5 strikeouts) earned the victory. He also went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI at the plate. KC Kelly was 1 for 2 with two RBIs for the Pumas.

Casa Grande starter Chris Sanchez (2⅔ innings, 7 runs, 3 hits, 8 walks) had an off night and suffered the defeat.

“For us to finish where we did this season, I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Fillinger said.

McKinleyville 2, Fort Bragg 1

In a Division 4 semifinal, the visiting fifth-seeded Timberwolves (21-6) went down in agonizing fashion versus the top-seeded Panthers (22-3).

Leading 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, it was Fort Bragg’s game to win with ace starter Jullian Clavelle (Loss, 6⅔ innings, 2 unearned runs, 4 hits) on the mound.

However, the Panthers’ first two batters in the seventh inning reached on an error and a hit that was misplayed by the Timberwolves.

McKinleyville tied the game 1-1 on a bloop single. Eventually, the Panthers loaded the bases with one out and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly to right-field.

“It was an absolute heartbreaker. It was hard to watch. I felt so bad for the kids. They played so hard all year,” Fort Bragg coach Roy Perkins said. “Give McKinleyville credit; they pulled it out. My hat’s off to them.”

Perkins said his team’s travel on Wednesday to the East Bay and then up north on Friday took a toll.

“Two trips in three days really hurt. With lots of travel, our kids were just beat. I think they just ran out of gas mentally in the last inning,” Perkins said. “We had many opportunities to score some runs earlier and couldn’t get the big hit.”

Fort Bragg’s lone run came in the fourth inning on a ground-out RBI by Cole Killion.

“There was not much offense in the game,” Perkins said. “It was a great season for us. We accomplished a lot. I commend our seniors — they did a heck of a lot for this program.”

In NCS softball:

McKinleyville 3, Cardinal Newman 1

This season’s magic came to an end for the third-seeded Cardinals (20-5) against the host second-seeded Panthers (22-3) in a Division 4 semifinal.

McKinleyville build a 3-0 lead with a run in the first inning and two runs in the third.

Cardinal Newman, however, threatened in the top of the seventh inning.

With one run in and runners on first and second and two outs, Erin Schnabel hit a screaming liner that was caught by McKinleyville’s diving center fielder to end the game.

“McKinleyville’s defense came through. Both teams were pretty evenly matched,” Cardinal Newman coach Bill Vreeland said. “It wasn’t our best game offensively. Our offense was a little slow to get going.”

Annalise Talafili (5 innings, 3 runs/1 earned) took the loss for Cardinal Newman.

“This team exceeded my expectations. We surpassed so many of the goals that we set,” Vreeland said, reflecting on the season. “We are a young team. We are going to be back strong next year.”

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