The knock on Coronado’s softball team in recent years goes something like this: Great in the regular season, underachievers in the playoffs.
Tatum Spangler put an end to the Cougars’ postseason woes Saturday.
Spangler doubled home the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning and tossed a complete game to lead Coronado to a 3-2 win over Rancho in the Class 4A Sunrise Region final at Bishop Gorman.
Coronado (31-5), which captured its first region title since 2012, advances to the state tournament that begins Thursday at Gorman.
“I’ve got nine seniors, and it’s been a goal of this team for four years to get to this position,” Cougars coach Melissa Krueger said. “It feels like we just fell short the last couple years. They had a plan this year. They knew exactly what they wanted to do.”
Dylan Underwood went 4-for-4 and led off the bottom of the seventh with a single for the Cougars.
After a sacrifice bunt by Erica Hardy, Spangler drove a pitch from Rancho reliever MacKenzie Perry off the top of the fence in left-center field to score Underwood from second base.
“Tatum’s been clutch all year,” Krueger said. “I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that Tatum was going to get a hit right there, because that’s who she is. She’s a gamer.”
Rancho (23-12), the defending region champion, went ahead 2-1 in the fifth when Perry singled and pinch runner Xocha Grantham scored on an error two batters later.
Coronado answered in the bottom half, chasing Rancho starter Sam Pochop after a single by Underwood and two straight walks loaded the bases.
Ashley Ward lined a single to left off Perry to tie the score at 2, but the freshman pitcher retired the next two batters to escape further damage.
“I’ve been playing against (Pochop) for four years now, and I think she’s one of the best pitchers this town’s ever seen,” Krueger said. “If she would have stayed in, I think we could have pulled it off as well. But when they took her out, that is an opening for us to try and jump on it and do what we need to do.”
Ward was 2-for-3, including a run-scoring double in the first to put Coronado on top 1-0.
Spangler retired the first 11 Rancho batters before Pochop hit a solo homer to right-center in the top of the fourth.
Spangler allowed three hits and struck out 10.
Perry was 2-for-3 for the Rams, who meet Sunset Region runner-up Sierra Vista (26-6) in the state play-in game at 4 p.m. Monday at Foothill.