Montgomery tops Sonoma Valley in softball as rain-delayed games get underway

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It sure was windy. But at least it wasn’t raining.

Montgomery and Sonoma Valley were both happy to be playing at all on Tuesday, given that both teams have had several rainouts as high school softball season gets underway in this historically wet spring.

Tuesday’s game in Santa Rosa was an early chance to compare notes for two teams that were on the top of their game last season.

Montgomery finished 10-4 and tied for first in the North Bay League last year, while Sonoma was 10-2 and placed second in the defunct Sonoma County League.

The Vikings came away with a 5-3 victory in the nonleague game as both teams battled swirling winds and continued to shake off winter cobwebs.

Tied at 3 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, Rylee O’Mara started a Viking rally with a leadoff walk from Dragons pitcher Jordyn Chiotti, and took second on a one-out walk to Jessica Celli.

Leadoff hitter Olivia Gabriel sliced a long drive to right field that withstood the wind to stay in fair territory, driving in O’Mara to break the deadlock and go up 4-3. Jena Kelley hit into an infield groundout to the right side, allowing Celli to score, 5-3.

Gabriel, who went 2-for-4 and scored a run, said she felt encouraged by her teammates cheering her on from the dugout.

“That was a really good confidence booster for me,” the right-hander said. “I do like the outside pitch.”

Vikings coach Mike Malvino, who before the game said pitching was going to be a question mark this year, was pleasantly surprised by the start from his junior pitcher Nicole Salada.

With their presumed ace ineligible, Salada and Axthelm will be expected to pick up the slack. He had hoped to get two or three solid innings from Salada.

“It was her first start of the year,” he said. “To get five innings out of her was great.”

Juggling pitchers is already shaping up to be a challenge for Malvino. The Vikings have four games scheduled this week, thanks to games that had to be rescheduled for rain, and are trying to squeeze in 14 nonleague games in five weeks before play in the new NBL-Oak Division starts on April 2.

Sonoma Valley is in the same predicament. The Dragons had only been able to complete two games and hadn’t played since Feb. 23 until Tuesday.

Coach Mike Fanucchi expects his pitching to hold up strong in the new Vine Valley Athletic League.

The Dragons won both of their early games, no-hitting Maria Carrillo in a 3-0 win and allowing just two hits to Pinole Valley in a 14-1 victory.

Abby Alcayaga started Tuesday and gave up two runs in the first inning, aided by a misplayed leadoff pop-up and three consecutive singles. Chiotti entered in relief in the third inning and struck out the side, and finished off three batters in the sixth inning on just four pitches.

“Our pitching is just phenomenal right now,” Fanucchi said. “I expect our hitting to be deep as well. We’re a real aggressive team.”

Defense was a challenge at times Tuesday with anything hit in the air, but neither team let the conditions get to them, Malvino said.

“Our defense did a great job with that wind,” he said.

Vikings first baseman Johanna Blackmore turned in the defensive gem of the day with a diving stab of a short pop-up in foul territory in the top of the sixth. Blackmore joined the team a bit late. The junior is a forward on the Montgomery basketball team, which competed in the state CIF Division II basketball playoffs until Feb. 26.

Montgomery scored two in the first and added a third in the fourth inning while holding Sonoma Valley scoreless until the fifth.

That’s when the Dragons strung together a single, walk, error and double — to center field, by Kennedy Midgley — to score two. A single by Ally Alcayaga scored Jaymee Pearce to tie the game at 3.

Montgomery is now 3-2 and Sonoma Valley falls to 2-1.

You can reach staff writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

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