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AMERICAN CANYON — In a softball game played at a very high level by both teams, Vintage remained tied for first place in the Vine Valley Athletic League with a 3-1 victory over host American Canyon on Thursday.

The Crushers (14-6, 8-3 VVAL) and Napa (13-7, 8-3 VVAL), which beat Sonoma Valley 11-6, remained at the top of the standings while American Canyon (11-9-1, 7-4 VVAL) dropped into fourth place behind Petaluma (7-3 VVAL).

“The girls really stepped up to the plate today,” victorious head coach Robert Poppe said. “They knew there was a lot on the line. Everyone came focused with good attitudes, and you can see what happens when we’re ready to play.”

Wolves head coach Roger Harris was disappointed but philosophical after Vintage swept the season series.

“We tried to make some things happen early and put some pressure on them, but it just didn’t work out,” said Harris, a Vintage High alumnus.

American Canyon (11-9-1, 7-4 VVAL) looked like it might have a big inning when it loaded the bases in the bottom of the third with just one out. Greta Fast hit a deep fly to left field that Crushers left fielder Taylor Brandt caught and relayed home to peg Lisa Bolton, who had tagged up and tried to score from third base. The double play ended the potential uprising by American Canyon and kept the game scoreless through three innings.

“That was huge,” Poppe said. “Taylor made the perfect throw, and sometimes that’s the hardest part of the game.”

Vintage got on the board first when Brandt beat out a grounder and came home to score on a Morgan Groves double that hugged the left-field line.

The Crushers padded their lead in the top of the sixth with a play not seen very often, a two-RBI bunt by Bianca Avalos. After Brandt reached first on a fielding error and moved to third on a double by Groves, Avalos – in the game because of a teammate’s injury – laid down a bunt that rolled between pitcher Bolton and her first baseman. It kept rolling, as the Wolves’ second baseman had vacated her position to cover first. Brandt and Groves scored and Avalos cruised into second with an unlikely bunt double.

“Imagine that, two RBIs on a bunt,” said Poppe. “Bianca really held her own today and that’s going to be a real boost to her confidence.”

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American Canyon got on the board with a run in the bottom of the seventh. Fast hit a blooper to left that fell in for a base hit, moved to second on a passed ball, and took third on a wild pitch. In a rare patch of wildness, Fast scored on another wild pitch. But Morse retired the final two American Canyon batters on pop-ups, and that was all she wrote.

“I felt confident on the mound today,” Morse said. “I knew our offense would get there eventually. I felt really motivated for this game. We really wanted to win this one.”

“Shelby was solid today,” said Poppe. “We’ve been working on not costing ourselves with our own bad errors, and today showed what happened when you don’t beat yourself in the game. On any given day, anybody can win. It’s who wants it more.”

Bolton, who will continue her career at Iowa’s Morningside College next year, also turned a strong performance from inside the circle.

“I feel like I did well,” she said. “There were a few things I could have tweaked, but overall I was pretty happy with my pitching. It was definitely a good game.”

The defensive gem of the day was turned in by American Canyon left fielder Yanesa Rosas. The Crushers’ Raimy Gamsby sent a long foul into the left-field corner that Rosas tracked down and snagged just before crashing at full speed into the fence. Amazingly, she held on to the ball and stayed in the game.

“Both games we played against Vintage this year were good softball,” said Harris, whose team had lost 4-3 at Vintage three weeks before.

American Canyon hosts Petaluma in its final league game on Monday, five weeks after Bolton blanked the Trojans 4-0 with a two-hit shutout.

Vintage hosts Petaluma in its league finale on Tuesday, looking to avenge an 8-1 loss to the Trojans on April 11.

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