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Batters up, Sonoma: Baseball, softball teams show the strain

Sonoma’s varsity diamond-sports athletes are having a rough go of it early in this spring season. As we go to press, the boys baseball team sports a 0-2 record, while the girls softball squad struggles at 1-3. But the season is young – it runs into June – and all teams in the Vine Valley league are “knocking the rust off” from a year without practice and with uncertainty.

Baseball

Opening night for the baseball Dragons was at Arnold Field; they will continue to play at the historic ball field near Depot Park for the foreseeable future, as there is no varsity diamond at the high school’s new sports complex. Throwing out the season’s first pitch on April 21 were Sonoma’s alcalde couple, Simon and Kimberly Blattner, and they both showed impressive stuff by throwing strikes.

Casey Spencer could have used their magic. The senior starter for the Dragons pitched five innings against visiting Casa Grande High from Petaluma, but gave up a run in the first, two more in the third, and three more in the fifth to go down as losing pitcher for the game. Overall he gave up 10 hits and six runs before relievers Landon Waldrop and Christian Hernandez took over. The final score was 7-0.

Meanwhile Casa Grande’s starter Gavin Ochoa gave up only three hits while striking out 9 in his six innings of service; Jake McCoy struck out the side in the seventh inning. The Dragons struck out 12 times in the seven-inning game while gathering only three hits, three walks and three errors.

On Friday, April 23, Sonoma Valley traveled to Napa to play Vintage High in a more even contest, which ended with the Crushers winning 4-3. Senior starter Jasper Ray went six innings and struck out six, but Vintage’s eight hits wore down the Dragons, whose one-run rally in the bottom of the seventh failed to overtake the Vintage lead. Four errors from the Sonoma Valley defense hurt, but stolen bases from Ross Neles and Nolan Verdu – he got a pair – kept the game interesting until the last out.

Next up for the baseball Dragons is another game at Arnold Field on Wednesday, April 28, against American Canyon, at 4 p.m.

Softball

After losing their opener to Casa Grande on April 14, 9-6, the Dragons softball girls defeated Novato on April 16, 11-9, in a non-league game. But last week their momentum stalled with two straight losses to league rivals, a 4/20 game at Vintage High that saw them narrowly drop a 2-1 decision; and an embarrassing 15-0 lost to American Canyon before a hometown “crowd” at Sassarini Elementary, where they play their local games while the sports complex is still in progress.

The Vintage contest was frustrating, a close match that went scoreless until the fifth inning when Taylor Owen singled in a run. Pitcher Jordyn Chiotti kept the lid on until the bottom of the sixth, when she gave up a pair of runs that put the Crushers ahead to stay, 2-1.

Two days later, the American Canyon Wolves bit and scratched their way to nine runs in the second inning and kept scoring after that, amassing 15 runs on 17 hits while the scoreless Dragons managed only three hits. Starter Chiotti turned the ball over to the freshman Kassedy Midgley in the second inning, who also struggled while the defense committed four errors.

Many of the stars of the last two seasons of Dragons softball graduated before achieving their goal of a district championship, so it’s a young team that’s trying to find their rhythm to compete in the VVAL. Only infielder Grace Kiser and pitcher Jordyn Chiotti are seniors, and there are four freshmen on the team – including Chiotti’s younger sister Gianna, and Kassedy Midgley, following in older sister Kennedy’s cleats.

The young Midgley in fact has stepped up to the plate with strong offensive numbers, batting lead-off and boasting a .500 hitting average, including a team-high six hits and four RBIs. Another frosh, Natalie Broderick, is also batting above her weight, with three RBIs and three doubles, making her the team leader in extra-base hits; freshman Kyra Hudson has also delivered a double among her five hits.

Overall the four freshman, two sophomores and three juniors comprise most of the 12 slots on the roster, which bodes well for future teams. Their next game is Tuesday, April 27 against Redwood in Larkspur; their next home game is Thursday, April 29 against Petaluma High, at Sassarini Elementary.

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