Coming off its biggest Bay Valley Conference sweep in years, the Napa Valley College softball team battled gusty winds and an improved Mendocino club and took care of business Tuesday at Storm Field.
Lauren Sharp pitched a complete game in the opener for the win and drove in eight runs on the day as NVC picked up its fifth and sixth straight victories.
The Storm downed the Eagles 9-6 in Game 1, despite getting out-hit 9-6. They won the second game, 9-3, outhitting Mendocino 12-9.
Napa Valley (25-11 overall, 16-6 BVC) is now just one game behind the second-place team, which is now Yuba (15-5 BVC). The 49ers were swept by fourth-place Marin, 9-0 and 9-2, on Tuesday after losing a pair of one-run games to the Storm on Thursday. Solano (19-3 BVC) is now alone in first place after sweeping Los Medanos on Tuesday.
The Storm will host Diablo Valley in a nonconference home doubleheader at 12 p.m. today before closing BVC play at Contra Costa-San Pablo (2-17 BVC) on Thursday.
Napa Valley head coach Michelle Hobbs program is looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and 2008.
Were still in playoff contention, she said. Theres still a possibility we might be able to get second place if certain people lose in our conference, which would give us an automatic bid. If not, were going to put in for an at-large bid because I believe we are one of the next four best teams. Our goal was to go 6-0 this week and end positively, no matter what. Ending the regular season on a high note will only help us out and prepare us for the playoffs.
Mendocino (8-28 overall, 2-17 BVC) gave the Storm a couple of good tune-ups.
In Game 1, the Eagles took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning off Sharp (nine hits, five walks, seven strikeouts). But the Storm tied it 3-3 in the bottom half as Demi Gray (2 for 3, three runs, walk, stolen base) and Brittany Jacques (two walks, two runs) walked, and Gray scored on a Miya Hamilton (three RBIs, two walks, two runs, three stolen bases) groundout and Jacques on a passed ball. Krystina Schnapp (1 for 3, walk, run) walked with two out and scored on a triple by Venessa Gonzalez (1 for 3, walk).
The Eagles regained the lead, 4-3, in the second, but NVCs Marisa Kaluza (1 for 3, run) doubled and scored to tie it in the bottom half.
Mendocino went back up, 6-5, with a two-spot in the top of the fifth. But the Storm tied it 6-6 in the bottom half when Hamilton walked, stole two bases, and scored on a Sharp sacrifice fly.
Sharp (1 for 4, double, four RBIs) put Napa Valley up 9-6 in the sixth with a three-run double. She then faced only three batters in the bottom half. After giving up a one-out single, she started a 1-6-3 double play turned by shortstop Hamilton to end the game.
In the second game, Jacques (2 for 4, two runs) singled and Hamilton (2 for 3, two RBIs, walk, two runs, stolen base) walked to open the bottom of the first inning, and Sharp (3 for 4, three doubles, four RBIs) drove in both with a two-run double. The Eagles tied it in the third, 2-2, with four straight hits. But Kaluza (nine hits, three walks, two strikeouts) got out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the Eagles from taking the lead.
Napa Valley broke it open in the fourth.
Schnapp (1 for 3, walk, run) singled and Kaluza (1 for 3, walk, two runs) singled and went to second when the throw to get Schnapp at third was late. Kaaliya Oakley (1 for 2, walk, run) singled in Kaluza for a 3-2 lead.
After another out, Gray (2 for 4, run) reached on an error to load the bases for Hamilton, whose two-run single made it 6-2. Sharp added an RBI double down the left-field line, forcing a pitching change. Hamilton scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-2.
Kaluza allowed only one run after getting in a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the fifth.
Whenever Im in a tough situation, I have to turn around and look at my team and know that theyve got my back and then just take it one pitch at a time. If I get a ahead of myself, it all goes bad, Kaluza sad. I try to just work my corners a lot because Im not as fast as Lauren, at all. I have to work on my location to be successful. The wind was tough, but it wasnt anything I couldnt work through. Sometimes you have to (wait) and let it go past.
In the fifth, after two walks, Mendocinos starting pitcher retook the circle and gave up an RBI single to Melyssa Ray (1 for 3) to close the scoring.
Today’s home finale will be Sophomore Day for second-year players Cristina Vang and Kelsey Heard.
Vang (sacrifice bunt, walk, stolen base) played the whole first game on Tuesday and got one at-bat in the second game, and Heard played the last inning of Game 2.
Were a solid team all-around, Vang said. Weve definitely got great hitters and weve got great pitchers. Weve just have a well-dedicated squad that really wants to make the playoffs. We had a handful of talented people (last year), but I dont they were as dedicated as the girls are this year. It makes it much funner to be a part of a competitive team. (Beating Yuba) is the only thing I wanted to do before I left this field, being a sophomore. I just wanted to beat Solano or Yuba, and we finally did and I told the girls that that was my victory. We all worked together. We were very solid that day, very solid.
Heard, who also played her second season of basketball for another of NVCs improved programs this year, plans to take basketball to the next level at University of Maine-Fort Kent in the fall.
A Utah native, Heard said she heard about Napa after talking to high school friends who had play junior college basketball in Southern California and Arizona and emailing coaches around California.
It all fell into place for me, she said, adding that playing softball has been just as pleasurable.
Its a fun group because we have a lot of diversity, a lot of ages and people coming from different places who grew up in different ways, so when you put it together it makes for a pretty wild experience, she said. I could see it coming in the fall. I could see the difference in our confidence and excitement. Everyone was excited to be here and we really meshed and clicked and were like This is a fun experience. Were gonna do work. But during our trip to San Diego (for a tournament), we were able to work out some kinks and be a family. We learned what we need from each other to perform and be open to each other and be patient with each other.
Added Hobbs, This is probably one of the closest-knit teams we have had and for them to be as competitive as they are, its really nice. Its really enjoyable to be out here, she said. I honestly didnt expect Mendocino to come back as much as they did today. They got a lot better than the last time we played them, and they adjusted to what they thought we were going to do really well. We werent expecting that, but you have to expect the unexpected.
My goal for my girls is to get better every day, get better every pitch, get better every rep, whatever it is. Thats why weve ended a little bit stronger, because they learned that we had to get better.
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