They changed the stadium and they changed the day, but in the end both of the Rancho Cotate Cougars’ victories over the Maria Carillo Pumas April 11 and 12 ended the same: 5-2.
The victories came as a welcome surprise for the Cougars’ head coach, John Morrow. His team has struggled this year to find a field for practice due to this year’s substantial rains rendering the grass unusable. The Cougars have had to make do with putting time in wherever they could, whether that be on the artificial turf at Cougars Stadium, on the blacktop, or even on a few occasions Rancho Cotate’s gymnasium.
“This is our first home game,” Morrow said. “We’ve been practicing wherever we can find places. Anything that works. When it gets dry, we’ll go around the bike path and hit in the cage. Whatever we can do.”
There were a lot of parallels between the two games. In each, the Cougars fell behind in the first inning, and in each they then stitched together a substantial lead in the third which they carried through for the rest of the game.
In the Cougars’ first match against the Pumas April 11, Michael O’Daniel started the inning when he smacked the ball over the head of the Pumas’ center field. O’Daniel stole second a few pitches later and then went home after Aiden Streeter hit the ball into the outfield.
Even with O’Daniel’s run, the Pumas might have clawed their way back, but their defense fell apart after the Cougars’ Riley Cronin hit a single up the left field line. The Pumas passed it to third, but Streeter was already making his way home. An attempt to stop him went wide and flew over the catcher’s head, bouncing off the backstop. The error gave the Cougars two points and a pair of runs a few plays later brought their score up to five.
The Cougars’ second match against the Pumas April 12 ended much the same way. The Pumas managed a single run in the first inning, which the Cougars matched in the second. Then in the third the Cougars’ Manny Garfia smacked the ball into the outfield for a double to bring one of his teammates home. The Cougars’ Noe Sanchez brought Garfia home a few bats later with an on-base hit of his own.
After the excitement of the third inning, the second game devolved into a stalemate. The Pumas managed a single point in the seventh inning, but it wasn’t enough to match the Cougars’ lead.
“We have a tendency to play down to our opponent’s level,” Pumas’ Head Coach, Sam Bruno, said. “We just beat the top team in division two and then lost to one of the bottom team of division two—the next day. It was a very frustrating game, honestly.”
The Cougars’ next opponents will be the Ukiah Wildcats in a pair of games April 24 and 26.