Sophomore Brie Gerhardt led Petaluma High's T-Girl softball team to an emotional 6-1 win over cross-town rival Casa Grande Tuesday afternoon. Leadoff hitter Gerhardt ran Petaluma to its first run, scored its second and drove in its final four. For the game, she had three hits, two doubles, scored twice and drove in four runs.

"Brie beat us," said Casa Grande coach Joanna Martin after the game.

It wasn't quite that simple, but the speedy shortstop certainly had much to do with Petaluma's fifth straight win.

Senior Dana Thomsen also had something to say for the T-Girls, making a statement with her pitching arm. Thomsen had troubles early, allowing the Lady Gauchos a run in the first inning, but shutting them out the rest of the way and shutting them down completely over the final four innings. She finished with a four hitter, walking none and striking out seven. She didn't allow a base runner over the final four innings.

Petaluma continued its recent hot-hitting streak, collecting nine hits off Casa Grande pitcher Courtney Ludlow, who pitched better than the numbers indicate. In addition to Gerhardt's three hits, Miranda Swanson swatted a double, Meghan DeCoite reached base twice and Katie Bisges had three hits.

Casa Grande gave Petaluma more of a battle than the final score shows. The Lady Gauchos had opportunities to score runs in bunches over the first three innings, but could not come up with a hit when it was most needed.

Gerhardt's speed gave the T-Girls a run before Casa had the opportunity to bat. She started the game with a walk, stole second and scored from there when DeCoite dumped a single down the left-field line.

Leading off a game is something Gerhardt definitely likes to do. "I like to take a lot of pitches," she explained. "It doesn't bother me to hit with two strikes."

Casa Grande immediately tied the game in the bottom of the first, but wasted an opportunity to get more.

Sara Langdon bunted safely into the teeth of Petaluma's charging defense, moved up when the T-Girls misplayd Lisa Nadell's follow-up bunt and scored when Ludlow slammed a hard single to left field. The budding rally expired when Heather Zeeb lined to Gerhardt at shortstop, who easily doubled a running Nadell off second base.

Casa Grande put Carli Reinhardt at third after her single in the second inning, but a strikeout and a pop-up left her stranded.

Nadell boomed a long double to left field one out into the third, but an easy bouncer to first and a called third strike left Casa Grande's final runner of the game stranded at second base.

"Right now we're in a little bit of a batting slump," Martin said. "We're not getting the hits at the right time."

Gerhardt started the third inning with a long double to right field, moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Nicole Wiecks and scored on Miranda Swanson's short sacrifice fly to left field, sliding around a desperation tag try by Casa's Reinhardt.

Gerhardt, with a big assist from Gianna Moretti hen put the game out of reach in the fourth inning. Singles by Barnacle and Bisges put two on. A strikeout later, Moretti put down a perfect bunt to advance both base runners and, with two outs, Gerhardt shot a single to center field to score both.

"Bunting is very important," said Petaluma coach Kurt Jastrow. "We didn't bunt very well today, but Gianna did a good job."

A similar situation faced Gerhardt in the sixth inning — two runners on base and two outs — and again she delivered, driving both runners home with a double to right.

Although the two teams are now in different leagues, and players are good friends with players from the opposing team, everyone agreed it was an important game.

"The players are friends, but it is a very emotional game," said Martin.

"We were really amped up at the start," noted Jastrow. "Casa may not be in our league, but it is still a big game."

The teams now go their separate ways. Petaluma, 5-1 on the season, begins Sonoma County League play at Elsie Allen April 2. Casa Grande, 3-3 on the season, begins North Bay League life Thursday at Maria Carrillo.