The Rancho Cotate Cougars opened their playoff season with a bang last Fri., May 17 when they shutout the Bethel Jaguars, 10-0, in a brutal six innings on the fields of Rancho Cotate High School.
The outcome was hardly surprising. Out of 16 teams in the NCS Division 2 Playoffs, the Cougars’ fantastic season this year earned them the number one seed, which meant their first opponent would come from the very bottom of their division—the Jaguars, in this case. The difference in skill between the two teams was prevalent right from the outset. At bat, the Cougars barely noticed the Jaguar defense, stealing bases with an almost contemptuous ease.
The victory stood in stark contrast to the Cougars’ performance in their last playoff season. In 2018 they entered into the NCS Division 2 Playoffs as the 13th seed and promptly lost in the first round Carondelet Cougars.
It’s a memory that has long gnawed at Cougars’ head coach, Tracey Poueu-Guerrero. And in the opening moments of the game, Guerrero feared history might repeat itself.
“I never know what to expect. A sixteenth seed in the Bay Area could be a four or five seed here,” Guerrero said. “I was a little scared in the beginning—we had a slow start and were inside the last couple days, trying to make the most of what we could. (...) We had girls swinging and missing at pitches they don’t normally swing at.”
The Cougars struggled a bit in the first inning in getting on base and for a while the Jaguars’ defense held firm. But then the Jaguars’ pitcher, Daniella Edwards, walked the Cougars’ Tiare Guerrero and the cracks opened wide.
Guerrero stole second a pitch later. A powerful hit by the Cougars’ Emily Avila sent the ball spiraling into Edwards’ glove, but it was moving too fast to catch. It bounced out and rolled across the grass. A quick pass to the Jaguars’ first baseman kept Avila off base, but the time needed was enough for Guerrero to advance to third. But that was where she had to stop. She edged back and forth along the line, looking for an opening.
Eventually she got one when an error at first gave her enough time to steal home. Guerrero slid in just a bare second before the Jaguars’ catcher tapped her shoulder.
“We’re always aggressive on the bases—that’s one thing that’s special about our team this year,” Guerrero said. “We have a lot of lefty slappers that are speedy and we like to mess around with the catcher to see what we can do on the bases. It’s not a new thing. We love to do that.”
Yet after the first inning the Cougars struggled to build on their early lead. The Jaguars kept them to just two points all the way up until the bottom of the fourth, but their defense finally collapsed when the Cougars’ Faith Cincera smacked the ball all the way out to the fences. She came home off a hit by Cayla Nixon, who then came home from a hit by Guerrero, who landed another point when the Jaguars committed an error at second.
Everything told, the Cougars managed five points in the fourth inning. They slapped another three points on the board in the bottom of the sixth, which triggered the league’s ten-point mercy rule. “Coming out here with nine girls, limited on players—we had some injuries throughout the season and some girls just weren’t able to come out. We had quite a few seniors who just decided they were done. It’s too bad. It shows their character,” Jaguars’ coach,
Anthony Kaluza, said. “Other than that? The focus was on what we had and worked with them. They did well.”
The Cougars will have to contend next with Bishop O’Dowd, who crushed Windsor last week 3-0 in their opening match. O’Dowd is the eighth seed.