With her team locked in a scoreless tie Thursday, Coronado softball coach Missy Krueger knew she had to make something happen.
Krueger waited until the sixth inning to make the risky call, but it paid off.
Her team’s baserunning trickery resulted in the game’s only run, and the Cougars escaped with a 1-0 home victory over Rancho in the winners’ bracket final of the Class 4A Sunrise Region tournament.
With the win, Coronado (30-5) earned a day off and will play for the championship Saturday at Bishop Gorman. Liberty (23-7) and Las Vegas (16-8) will face off in a 2:30 p.m. game Friday at Foothill, and the winner will play the Rams (22-11) at 4:30 for the other spot in the championship.
Thursday’s pivotal play occurred in the bottom of the sixth, when the Cougars put runners at the corners with two outs. In the midst of a pitchers’ duel, Kruger attempted to lure a throw to second base by having baserunner Jillian James make a half-hearted attempt at a steal.
Rancho catcher Yvette Sanchez fell for the trick and threw to second, where no one was awaiting a throw. The ball sailed into center field, allowing Taylor Okamura to score from third.
“The initial call was to get in a run-down,” Krueger said. “We’ve practiced what to do in that situation with a runner at third, and we knew when to take that cut. That was the plan all along. It made it a lot easier when no one was covering second base.”
Okamura, who reached base on an infield single, said she knew it could be her team’s last opportunity.
“When I saw what was happening, I knew I had to book it,” said Okamura, who had all three of Coronado’s hits. “I knew I was the winning run, and I was so excited.”
James, who struck out 14 while tossing a one-hitter, retired the Rams in order in the seventh to seal the win. Even so, she said she was ready to throw as many innings necessary to give her team the win.
“I looked forward to this game all week,” she said. “I prepared for it, and I visualized it. I knew I could do it, and I just believed in myself.”
While Rancho never got a baserunner past second base, Coronado put runners on third in each of the first three innings. There were two outs on each occasion, however, and Rams pitcher Sam Pochop escaped all three jams with strikeouts.
In the end, Krueger said her team’s aggressive mentality made the difference.
“We knew we could pull off a run if we just kept putting pressure on,” she said. “We knew that time would come. If we could get a runner in scoring position, we could make something happen.”
Pochop struck out nine while firing a three-hitter to lead Rancho, and teammate Lili Gutierrez had the Rams’ only hit when she grounded a single into left field in the fourth inning.
Las Vegas 2, Basic 1 — At Las Vegas, Skylar Gorrell fired a three-hitter and scored the go-ahead run, as the Wildcats eliminated the Wolves.
Melina Fabian led off the bottom of the sixth with a single and scored on a double by Gorrell to tie it a 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning for Las Vegas. Arienn Ackerman then singled home Gorrell with the go-ahead run for the Wildcats.
Hannah Barr scored Basic’s run in the fourth inning.
Gorrell allowed an unearned run and struck out three.
Shelby Basso went the distance, allowing four hits, for Basic (19-17).
Liberty 8, Foothill 2 — At Liberty, McKenna Hefley was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, as the Patriots ousted the Falcons.
Ashleigh Rodriguez went 4-for-4, and Maris Olmos had an RBI triple for Liberty. Jessica Meza earned the win in the circle for the Patriots.
Katelyn Enzweiler supplied two hits and an RBI to pace Foothill (16-19).