WALNUT CREEK — The Vintage High softball team lost 5-2 to No. 7 seed Carondelet in a North Coast Section Division 1 softball playoff opener Wednesday in cold and rainy conditions.
But the 10th-seeded Crushers (14-8) had to feel a sense of accomplishment after a 4-14 season a year ago.
“Last year we didn’t make the playoffs, but we did this year. I look at this as good building blocks for the future,” first-year Vintage head coach Robert Poppe said.
Morgan Groves, the Crushers’ hitting star for the day with a home run and double, echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“Last year was a really tough year,” the junior said, “but we turned it around this year and had a good year.”
Carondelet’s left-handed hurler, Gabriel Williams, gave everyone in the Vintage lineup trouble except for Groves. Williams struck out seven of the first nine Crushers she faced on her way to a four-hitter for the Cougars (15-9-1), raising her record to 12-9.
Groves noted the Vintage batters were seeing the ball better after the first time through the batting order.
“After one at-bat, you’re used to it,” she said.
True to her word, Groves blast a two-run homer in her second at-bat and doubled off the left-field fence in her third trip to the plate.
“I always expect good things from her,” Poppe said of Groves. “We’ll be building on today’s performance her senior year, that’s for sure.”
Vintage starting pitcher Shelby Morse kept the Cougars off the board through the first two innings. But in the third, sophomore Jesse Juinio crushed a ball over the right-center field fence with two aboard to give Carondelet a 3-0 lead.
The Crushers got in on the power show in the top of the fourth. After senior Taylor Brandt got on with Vintage’s first hit, Groves sent a drive to right that just cleared the fence and closed the gap to 3-2.
After Carondelet added a run in the fourth for a 4-2 lead, Vintage looked to be in position for a big inning in the fifth.
After two outs, speedy sophomore Jordan Allen beat out a slow-rolling infield single and moved to second base on a single up the middle by Morse. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and the table was set for Brandt.
The left fielder hit a grounder up the middle that looked sure to bring in two runs, but second baseman Ella Romero came out of nowhere to flag it down and nail Brandt at first on a very close play.
“The girls put up a good fight,” Poppe said. “A couple of bounces go the other way and it’s a different game.”
The Cougars closed out the scoring in the bottom of the fifth when Romero hit a solo shot over the left-field fence for a 5-2 lead.
Morse pitched five innings and took the loss. The freshman gave up all five runs on only five hits, but three were for extra bases. She also walked two and struck out three. Fellow freshman Raimy Gamsby pitched one inning in relief, giving up no hits and striking out two.
Senior catcher Sierra Crocker had a strong game behind the plate for Vintage, throwing out two runners – one on a spectacular, strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play.
Carondelet advanced to visit No. 2 seed Heritage-Brentwood (23-2) in a quarterfinal at 5 p.m. Friday.
Playing a Division 1 quarterfinal at the same time will be No. 8 seed Napa High (15-7) at No. 1 Foothill-Pleasanton (25-0).