ROHNERT PARK, CA – A grand slam by slugger and pitcher Elizabeth Avery followed two batter later by a solo shot by Nicole Hammoude ended up being the margin of victory as Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland now advances to the CIF North Coast Section Division II semifinals after a 7-4 quarterfinal victory over a no quit host and top seeded Rancho Cotate.
O’Dowd (18-4) may have been a No. 8 seed but they didn’t look like one and actually haven’t all season after notching their eleventh straight victory since a 2-1 loss to Castro Valley for their only loss in an 11-1 league record that earned the Dragons the West Alameda County – Foothill crown.
Because of the rains the streak even included a stretch between April 30 and May 3 when they played four games in four days culminating in a 10-inning 1-0 win that avenged the Castro Valley loss.
“In order to get our league in we had to go Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Friday in one week,” O’Dowd Coach Mike Cobb said. “It hurt us like everyone else but helped us too by getting the girls into a rhythm.”
Rancho Cotate junior pitcher Kaylee Drake sailed through the first two innings with three up and three down but things unraveled in the top of the third.
O’Dowd seventh hitter Cambria Restagno reached on an error followed by Elyse Brill reaching on another Rancho Cotate fielding gaffe. A past ball advanced the pair to second and third, and then Arin Lau, who rounds out the Dragons order, fought off three 3-2 pitches to draw a walk and load the bases.
Up stepped Avery, and the Boston University-commit launched a high towering drive that cleared the fence in the left centerfield power alley, and the grand salami gave O’Dowd a 4-0 lead. After Drake got a strikeout she now faced Hammoude and the Cal-bound shortstop hit a frozen rope-like line drive that whizzed over the head of the left fielder and cleared the fence by a foot in the same place as Avery’s bomb.
Rancho Cotate (21-4) hadn’t gotten a ball out of the infield through the first three innings but that changed in the fourth. Makayla Barnes walked to open the inning and after and then after the next batter struck out Talia Guerrero reached on an error to put runners at first and second. Kenadi Akin then hit a hard smash that got by everyone and went to the centerfield fence for a double that plated both runners. A two out single scored pinch runner Isabella Luevano to cut it to a 5-3 deficit.
O’Dowd came right back with a two-spot in the top of the fifth to make it 7-3 after Avery singled to open the inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice. Junior Jayla Daily singled her home and then scored on a throwing error on a base hit by freshman Marianne Tanner.
The host Cougars got a final run in the bottom of the fifth after a two out single by Barnes and an RBI double by Drake, but from there Avery got the final out and then retired the final six batters to close it out.
As a batter Avery was 3-for-4 with the grand slam, four RBI and two runs scored. From the circle she only gave up one earned run and seven hits with nine strikeouts.
“Lizzy (Avery) has been outstanding all season. We wouldn’t be her without her,” Cobb remarked. “And Nicole has been really hitting and when she and Lizzy are hitting we’re dangerous.”
Because of the rains O’Dowd has another short week. They now face a No. 4 seed Newark Memorial team on Friday that has been waiting since last Friday to play after a 19-8 quarterfinal victory over San Marin. The Friday winner will face a No. 7 seed Antioch team that was a 4-2 quarterfinal winner over Alhambra on Wednesday.
To reach the title game against Antioch on Saturday at Diablo Valley College, the Dragons will need to get past a Newark Memorial team that beat them 10-4 in their season opener.
“When we lost to Newark it was early in the season, our catcher was at a wedding and we had girls moved around because of that,” Avery said. “But at this point we’ve developed more into who we are with more intensity as a team. Now, we’re gelling as a team and have been figuring it out.”
Friday’s semifinal at Newark is at 5:00 pm with the winner getting a 4:00 pm date with Antioch on Saturday in Pleasant Hill.