Sam Pochop led Rancho’s softball team throughout the regular season and through the first two games of the playoffs, so it was no surprise Thursday that she was once again the key player.
The sophomore pitcher struck out 11 while tossing a three-hitter to lead the Rams to a 9-2 victory over Foothill in a Sunrise Region tournament winners’ bracket semifinal game at Foothill.
The win earned Rancho the right to take a day off, as Silverado will face Coronado in a 3 p.m. elimination game today, with Foothill to play the winner of that game at 5. The Rams will face the winner of today’s action for the championship Saturday at 10 a.m.
Rancho coach Amanda Zunno said the first three days of the tourney went according to plan.
“Going into the tournament, it was our goal to win three straight and get a break for Sam,” said Zunno, who expressed that Pochop’s heavy role this week has been exhausting. “We’ve achieved that.”
Pochop took control from the start, striking out the first six batters she faced. The Rams gave her a 2-0 lead in the third inning when Gianna Carosone blooped an RBI single into right field, and McKinzi Vega followed with an RBI double off the left-field fence.
The Falcons got a run back in the bottom of the inning and kept it close until the Rams erupted for four runs in a fifth inning capped by Kat Anthony’s two-run double to left field.
The Falcons hurt themselves with four errors, all aided by strong winds.
“It’s Las Vegas, and it’s windy in the spring,” said Zunno, who talked to her players about the weather before the game. “We didn’t want that to become a factor.”
Though Foothill scored an unearned run on Jordan Corn’s two-out double in the sixth inning, Pochop got the last word with a towering two-run homer against the wind in the seventh that provided the final margin.
Vega went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs to help Rancho, and Anthony was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.
Alexia Campbell had an RBI single for Foothill.
Silverado 11, Liberty 2 — Hanna McCall went 4-for-4 with a walk to help the the Skyhawks upset the Northeast League champion Patriots in an elimination game.
Silverado chased Liberty starter Soraya Rodrigues in the second and built an early 4-0 lead before leaving the bases loaded in the second and third innings. But the Skyhawks erupted in the middle innings to take control.
Starter Gabby Santiago, who went 3-for-5 at the plate, scattered nine hits over seven innings to earn the victory for Silverado. Teammates Alessandra Ponce, Jessica Chamberlain and Madison Sisco each added two hits.
Ashleigh Rodriguez went 3-for-4 to lead Liberty.
Coronado 4, Green Valley 2 — Tatum Spangler went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI to help the Cougars rally past the Gators.
Green Valley got on the board first, making the most of two third-inning errors by Coronado to go ahead, 2-0.
The Cougars got a run back in the fifth, and were issued two bases-loaded walks in the sixth to go ahead, 3-2. Spangler’s RBI double provided an insurance run, and starting pitcher Jillian James shut the Gators down in the seventh to earn the victory.
James went 2-for-2 to help the Cougars, and teammate Sarah Pinkston went 2-for-3.
Jinger Meuir had an RBI single for Green Valley, which was held to three hits.