SUNRISE SOFTBALL: Sam Pochop sparks Rancho to win over Liberty

Rancho’s Sam Pochop stepped to the plate in the fifth inning Wednesday with her team deadlocked in a 3-3 tie. Momentum was about to turn the Rams’ way.

Pochop launched a two-run homer to left field to give her team the lead, and Rancho never looked back en route to a 13-4 victory over host Liberty in a winners’ bracket semifinal of the Class 4A Sunrise Region softball tournament.

The moved the Rams (22-10) into the winners’ bracket final, where they will play at Coronado (29-5) at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The Patriots (22-7) will host Foothill (16-18) in a 4 p.m. elimination game.

“When Sam hit that home run and we saw it go over, the dugout erupted,” Rancho coach Amanda Zunno said. “I knew that was the turning point.”

Her hunch was right, as the Rams tacked on five runs in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh to put the game away.

Pochop, meanwhile, settled down after a turbulent start in the circle to keep Liberty from getting back in it. She finished with 12 strikeouts while scattering eight hits.

But Zunno said it was a team effort.

“We made adjustments to the lineup all season,” Zunno said. “When we finally put this lineup together during the last week of the regular season, we felt it.”

Zunno’s offense was strong from the start, as Lili Gutierrez lined a two-run double to the right center-field fence to cap a three-hit first inning and give Rancho a 2-0 lead.

But the Patriots got the runs back in the bottom of the inning with RBI singles from Marisa Olmos and Brea Alvarez.

“We wanted to get on them early,” Zunno said. “So to get that 2-0 lead was just what we wanted. But when we gave it up, it just became a 0-0 ball game, and we knew we had to make some adjustments.”

Both teams scored solo runs in the fourth before Pochop’s blast in the fifth. The Rams finally chased Liberty starter Soraya Seumalo with five consecutive hits in the sixth. The Patriots hurt themselves with two errors in the inning and six in the game.

Yvette Sanchez also played a key role for the Rams, going 4-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs.

“When her bat comes alive, she really makes a difference in our lineup,” Zunno said of Sanchez. “And she was due.”

Pochop finished 3-for-3 with two walks and three RBIs, and teammate Ayanna Potter added a 3-for-4 performance.

McKenna Hefley went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI to lead the Patriots. Olmos went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

Coronado 10, Las Vegas 0 — At Coronado, Tatum Spangler tossed a five-inning no-hitter with six strikeouts to help the Cougars defeat the Wildcats (15-8) in a winners’ bracket semifinal.

Ashley Ward and Dylan Underwood each finished 3-for-3 for Coronado, which also got a two-run home run from Taylor Okamura.

Las Vegas hosts Basic (19-16) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Foothill 5, Silverado 4 — At Foothill, Leah Becker singled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning, and the Falcons rallied to beat the Skyhawks (12-17) in an elimination game.

Sadie Christian and Skylar Glaude also had run-scoring singles as part of Foothill’s three-run fifth inning.

Christian was 2-for-4 and added an RBI single in the third, and Glaude finished 2-for-4.

Jocelyn Shupp was 3-for-4 for Foothill, which had 13 hits.

Jaime Gonzalez was 2-for-4 with an RBI double, and Megan Johnson had a run-scoring single in the top of the fifth to give Silverado a 4-1 lead.

Mary Gregorich added a two-run double in the second for the Skyhawks.

Basic 8, Green Valley 3 — At Basic, Shelby Basso tossed a complete game with 10 strikeouts and was 2-for-3 with a double and four RBIs to help the Wolves eliminate the Gators (14-20).

Sanoe Helenihi had a two-run home run, and teammate Lexie Edmunds supplied two hits and an RBI for Basic.

Baylee Means had a two-run double in the seventh inning for Green Valley.