The Petaluma Steal Breeze under-16 team is off to a strong start to its summer schedule, posting an 8-2 won-loss record over its first two tournaments.

After a hard fought, walk-off loss in the championship game to the San Bruno Storm in Vallejo, the Petalumans bounced back. posting a 5-0 record ont heir way to beating the Benecia Outlaws in the championship game of Del Holson ASA pre-qualifier tournament in Benecia,

The Petaluma team features current and future varsity starters from St. Vincent, Petaluma and Casa Grande high schools. Representing the North Coast Section Division V NCS champion Lady Mustangs from St. Vincent are pitcher/ utility player Hannah Sarlatte, catcher/third baseman Mary Cerf and outfielder Olivia Sikora. The NCS Division 2 semi-finalist Lady Trojans from Petaluma on the squad include catcher/shortstop Miranda Swanson, outfielder Taylor Kerrigan and firstbaseman/outfielder Cassie Baddeley. Junior varsity stars Emily Corda (shortstop /second base) and Jess Delaney (pitcher/ first base/outfield) round out the T-girl contingent. Kaleigh Hart of the NCS-qualifying Casa Grande Lady Gauchos will be pitching as well as playing first base and outfield, while JV standout Sarah Mills will be playing in the middle infield. Utility players Ashley Yee of Casa, Hannah Becker of Sonoma Academy and third baseman/ catcher Ashley Carey of San Marin are also key contributors to the team.

The team is managed by current St. Vincent High School softball coach Pete Sikora , assisted by long-time Petaluma Girls Softball Association coach Mike Baddeley.

The Steal Breeze started their year off on a strong note by plating six runs in the first inning of their first game of the year against the Alameda Eclipse in the Joshua Richardson Tournament in Vallejo. The Petalumans rolled on to a 16-0 victory, implementing the 10 run-rule in the game that was shortened to three innings. Jess Delaney pitched a perfect three -inning game and helped herself at the plate with two hits. Kerrigan led the offense with a three-for-three day, while Sarlatte and Cerf each chipped in twp hits each.

The Breeze then had one bad inning against the San Bruno Storm in an 8-1 loss. Three errors in the sixth inning allowed San Bruno to post seven runs, but the game had been an exciting 1-1 tie until the fateful inning.

The Breeze bounced right back in their third game against the Los Gatos Magic, earning a 4-3 victory. A Swanson triple in the first inning was the big blow, and helped Petaluma jump out to a three-run

lead. Los Gatos added two runs in the second to make it a close game, but pitcher Hannah Sarlatte was able to pitch her way out of further trouble. The Breeze added a run in the top of the fourth and Los Gatos countered with a run in the bottom of the inning, but Sarlatte silenced the Magic the rest of the way and helped herself with a couple of hits at

the plate.

In game 4 of the round-robin tournament, Delaney proved dominating again, throwing a one-hit shutout at the Palo Alto Heat. Sikora helped her pitcher out with three nice plays in the wind-swept

right field. Petaluma posted five runs in the second inning and one in the third for good measure with Corda and Swanson leading the offense with two hits each.

With three wins in pool play, Petaluma was looking forward to a championship game re-match against undefeated San Bruno, but unfortunately had to watch the Storm celebrate a walk-off victory as the

Petalumans couldn't hold the game tied at 5 - 5 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nonetheless, it was an strong showing for the team in its first tournament of the year.

The Steal Breeze made it interesting in the first game of the Del Holson ASA pre-qualifier tournament last weekend by falling behind. 7-0, in the top of the first inning against the San Ramon Stompers. Only two balls left the infield during the error-plagued inning.

"I'm not quite sure what alien force came down and abducted our team for that first half inning," said Sikora, "but it was nonetheless a great learning experience for our team relative to focus and execution. We were confident in our ability to come back. and challenged the girls to prove they were better than what we showed defensively in that first inning."

The Petalumans responded with four runs in the first, three runs in the second, and three runs in the third to finally take a 10-8 lead. Petaluma added one more run in the fourth for good measure. Pitcher Kaleigh Hart never let the defensive miscues of the first inning rattle her, and picked up her team by only giving up one more run after the dreadful first inning.

Offensive contributions came from all over the line up, including two doubles from Swanson, two 2hits from Kerrigan, and key hits from Cerf, Corda, Baddeley, Yee, Sikora, and Sarlatte.

In game 2, Petaluma left no doubt about the outcome by posting seven runs in the first inning against the San Lorenzo Heat. The Breeze rolled on to an 11-3 victory behind another strong Delaney pitching performance, doubles from Corda, Mills, and Carey, a Hart triple and a Sarlatte home run.

The Petaluma pitching and defense then turned it up a notch and became extremely stingy for the rest of the tournament, including a 6-1 victory against the Benecia Outlaws in the final pool play game.

Petaluma then dubbed it "Shout out Sunday" by demolishing the Heat, 17-0 in their first playoff game and then soundly beating Benecia again by a score of 7-0 in the championship game.

Defensive gems were prevalent throughout the day with Corda ranging all over shortstop to make put outs, Mills backhanding shots at second base, Cassie Baddeley making sliding catches in left, Kerrigan chasing down balls in the gap from center, Yee throwing out a runner at first from right field, Cerf taking away bunts from third base and Sarlatte back picking a runner at second base who rounded the bag a bit too far.

Hitting stars on the day included Hart with five hits including, her third extra base hit of the tournament' Baddelely with five knocks; Swanson with four hits, including a home run, Mills with three hits; Cerf and Delaney with two hits each; a Corda triple and Yee who hit the ball hard.

Sarlatte dominated on the mound against the Heat in the first playoff game, facing only one batter over the minimum in the game that was shortened to three innings due to the 10-run rule. Delaney then took control in the championship game, scattering three hits, and never facing more than four batters in any inning.

The under-16s will get a good test this weekend at the Nicole Mattson tournament in Rohnert Park. THAT will feature "A" level teams from the region.