Center fielder Regan Laubscher made a spectacular game-saving catch to preserve a 5-3 win by visiting Casa Grande over Windsor, and the surging Gauchos grabbed a share of the North Bay League softball title last Thursday.
With the potential tying runs at second and third and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Averie Gehrett of the Jaguars lobbed a sinking liner that nearly dropped into short center field. Laubscher took a perfect angle on the ball and made a headlong dive to come up with the play of the game as Casa disappointed a big Senior Day crowd at Windsor by winning its third game in a row.
The Gauchos moved into a three-way tie with Montgomery and Rancho Cotate for the NBL title. It had been a long stretch for Casa since it captured any part of a softball championship. The last title for the Gauchos came in 2009 when they captured the Sonoma County League crown.
“We will all get a banner,” said pleased Casa coach Scott Sievers. “The NBL commissioner contacted all of us yesterday and detailed each scenario. The last word we received is that the championship tournament will determine the designated home team in the North Coast Section playoffs.”
Perennial title contender Rancho Cotate had a two-game lead with a couple to play but lost consecutive games to Casa and Montgomery in the final week.
Sievers was more interested in discussing the play of his young team.
“We hit very well, and the girls are athletic,” he said. “They make plays at the right moment, and Regan’s catch was a good example of that. We were concerned about her depth in center field because of the tying run at second base. She made an outstanding play.”
Casa never trailed in the game as the Gauchos scored in the first inning on a RBI single by pitcher Katie Machado and never looked back.
The Gauchos got a two-run home run from freshman shortstop Mo Lynch and another RBI hit by Machado to move ahead 4-0 in the third inning. The blast by Lynch was a high fly ball that sailed over the reach of Jaguar center fielder Alysa De Casas.
Machado pitched smoothly with a comfortable lead until Windsor got a single run in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Gauchos got their fifth run earlier in the top of the inning on a run-scoring single by Meghan Bendick.
Machado got into trouble with runners on first and second in the sixth inning, but she got excellent relief from Katie Humphreys, who got out of the inning without giving up a run.
Humphreys wasn’t as fortunate in the final frame as the Jaguars cobbled together a two-run rally and moved runners to second and third with two outs. Then came the potential game-changing fly ball and the catch in center field.
Skylar Thorpe led the Gaucho offense with three singles. Lynch, Bendick and winning pitcher Machado chipped in with two hits each. The Gauchos ended the regular league season with a record of 10-4.
Junior first baseman Kayla Scott had three hits, including two doubles for the Jaguars. Scott also pitched the final four innings for Windsor. The Jags finished 5-9 in league play.