The Rancho Cotate Cougars closed out their last home game of the regular season with a crushing 5-1 victory over the Analy Tigers last Thurs., May 2nd.
The Cougars’ win secures them the first place position in the North Bay Oak League and the 2019 pennant, which will hang in Rancho’s new Henry Sarlatte Gymnasium. It’s quite the honor, but it’s one the Cougars have experienced before; this is the fourth year in a row that the Cougars have landed the pennant.
Still, despite the familiarity, recognition feels good, according to Cougars’ head coach Tracey Poueu-Guerrero. She’s thrilled and believes her team worked hard to achieve all that they’ve earned this season.
“It’s a goal they set for themselves at the start of the season. They’ve all worked incredibly hard to get here and now I think they’re just extremely happy. They’re pushing forward to get ready for the playoffs,” Poueu-Guerrero said. “This is the program’s sixteenth pennant. I just want to continue to live up to the legacy.”
Right from the start the Cougars proved their dominance. They stole an early lead in the first inning with three quick runs, which set the tone for the rest of the game. In the second they built on their lead with another pair of points, but after that their offense faltered; they were the last to be earned by the Cougars that game.
And so for the next five innings the Cougars fought a vicious defense, while the probing Tigers searched for a hole. They eventually found one in the fourth inning when the Cougars’ pitcher walked the Tigers’ Carson Rasmusson. Rasmusson then stole second, and went to third after a sacrificial bunt. She made for home a few pitches later when one of her teammates knocked the ball into the outfield.
“Hustle-hit never-quit,” Cougar catcher and graduating senior, Makenzy Milsap, said. “I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss my teammates and my coaches. This program really built me into the person I am today. Rancho softball is all about pushing yourself to be the best all while having fun.”
That was to be the only break the Tigers saw that game. The Cougars re-focused and kept the Tigers from shrinking their lead all the way up until the seventh inning. It was then that Rasmussen returned to the plate. She faced off against the Cougars’ pitcher Kaylee Drake.
A few pitches went by, which Rasmussen fouled off, but eventually one sailed over the plate that she liked. A crack echoed across the field. The ball blurred. Drake’s glove shot out. She snagged the ball out of the air, but the force of its movement bounced it out of her glove. She scooped it up and sent the ball to her first baseman and teammate Sarah Bedokah, who caught it a bare half second before Rasmussen tapped the bag.
The Tigers’ coach, Nick Houtz, was not happy with his team’s performance. Houtz blamed the loss on his players lack of focus.
“Rancho is a good team. You’ve got to play ball to beat ‘em and we weren’t playing ball,” Houtz said. “These kids have to come to play. And a lot of these kids, they’re just happy to be on a team, but against a school like Rancho? You’ve got to come out here with fire in your belly. We didn’t have that today.”
But it’s possible that this won’t be the last time the Cougars face off against the Tigers. Both teams now move on to the North Bay Oak League Playoffs, and while the Cougars are the first seed, the Tigers aren’t too far behind.
Rancho’s first opponent in the tournament will be the Montgomery Vikings.