The Novato All-Stars edged the San Rafael All-Stars 3-2 to earn the Marin Girls Softball Majors All-Stars Tournament championship.
Majors teams consist of girls in the fifth and sixth grades. The all-star teams are formed from the best players within each league.
The level of play in the semifinals and championship game belied the ages of the players involved. These girls definitely got game.
In the championship game, Novato scored single runs in the middle innings to take a 2-0 lead. Starting pitcher Dixie Thompson benefited from her battery mate, catcher Samantha Tong, who threw out two would-be base stealers in the early innings to keep San Rafael in check.
San Rafael struck in the sixth inning, scoring a pair of runs to even the contest. San Rafael hurler Ashley Bottomley turned back Novato in the bottom of the sixth and got the first two outs in the seventh before lightning struck.
In this case, lightning came in the form of Nicole Marino. She reached first base and immediately went into her best Rickey Henderson impression. On the first pitch, she raced for second. When the throw bounced into short right-center field, she headed for third. When the throw to third went high, she rounded third and raced home with the winning run. Carly Slack was the winning pitcher in relief for Novato.
The semifinals were as hotly contested as the championship game. Novato squeaked past Mill Valley 4-3 in a game that went down to the final out.
Mill Valley took an early 2-0 advantage, only to see Novato strike for three runs to take the lead and add another later to go up 4-2.
In the bottom of the final inning, Mill Valley pulled out all stops, starting a strawberry rally. Each girl ate a strawberry and the tactic had positive effect. Mill Valley put two runners in scoring position with only one out. The next hitter brought in a run with an out and the tying run advanced to third. But the runner was stranded as the third out was made. They ended up one strawberry short. Mill Valley coach John Gusiff praised his team, “They didn’t quit, they played good enough to win, and they played as a team.”
On a separate field, San Rafael fought a see-saw battle with the Twin Cities Llamas, winning the other semifinal 9-5.
Twin Cities jumped into the lead in the first inning 3-0, only to see San Rafael respond immediately with three runs of their own. Undaunted, the Llamas added two more runs to go back ahead 5-3; but San Rafael answered with two of their own.
The semifinals were played against an 80-minute time limit and time was running out as San Rafael came to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning. They exploded for four runs to take a 9-5 lead that held up as relief pitcher Bottomley retired Twin Cities in order in the sixth inning as time expired.
All the teams played defense at a high level for their age group, but the Novato team was exceptional, anchored by catcher Tong.
Every team battled to the last pitch. Novato trailed Mill Valley in the semifinal and had to watch San Rafael rally to catch them in the championship game before winning.
San Rafael trailed twice in its semifinal game and overcame both deficits to win. Then they fell behind in the championship game and again rallied to tie and take the game to the last out.
Mill Valley scored early against eventual champion Novato in the semifinals and had the tying run at third base when the game ended. And Twin Cities twice took the lead against San Rafael before bowing out late.
The Twin Cities league covers the cities of Larkspur and Corte Madera. Their league is smaller than the other leagues represented in the semifinals, so they had fewer players to draw from. Coach Dave Vas was also shorthanded as his best pitcher was sidelined with a back ailment. Still, they didn’t lack for fight and they didn’t lack for ingenuity. Rather than being known simply as the generic “All-Stars,” they decided that they would henceforth be known as the Twin Cities Llamas. You go, Llamas.
The San Rafael team had the greatest offensive output and coach Ray Nottingham noted, “We were proud to have contributions from every player on our roster throughout the tourney. However, three girls did exceptionally well at the plate: Savannah Jones, Alison Schultz, and Angela Zarraonandia.”
Tiburon took the consolation championship with a 9-3 victory over San Francisco.
Front Row (l-r): Tehya Wheeler, Jaleesa Lewis, Sydney Spina, Sarah Bailey, Samantha Tong, Maia Dillon, Alana Locke
Top Row (l-r): Nicole Marino, Kiana Escandon-Capanna, Rebecca Simonetti, Dixie Thompson, Angela Malliaras, Carly Slack, Sarah Calabrese
Coaches (l-r): Michelle Simonetti, Angie Tong, Yvonne Locke, Kelly Thompson
Front Row (seated), l-r: Savannah Jones, Kianna Ahlstrom, Vanessa Gilles
Second Row (kneeling), l-r: Ella Gerlach, Gina Roche, Malia Tuatagaloa, Chloe Wolk
Third Row (standing), l-r: Alison Schultz, Kylee Nottingham, Ashley Bottomley, Ellie Bauer, Angela Zarraonandia
Top Row (coaches), l-r: Natu Tuatagaloa, Ray Nottingham, Steve Bottomley
Top Row (l-r): Jessie Scarsella, Elodie Townsend, Christy Gusiff, Marley Townsend, Destiny Buckhanan
Bottom Row (l-r): Kendel LaFranchi, Sarah Wiesheier, Adreienne Lee, Alex Paulenich, Katie Madden, Anna Reichenbach, Megan Lee
missing in photo: Sophia Venables
Coaches (l-r): Blaine Townsend, John Scarsella, and John Gusiff
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