Burlingame softball coach Doug McKeever figured his team would experience some growing pains this season, with seven sophomores and a freshman starting.
Capuchino, meanwhile, has struggled to score runs this season, but has managed to win more than it has lost.
Both teams lived up to their reputations when they hooked up in Burlingame Thursday. Capuchino scored an unearned run in the top of the first inning and nursed that lead to the top of the seventh when the Mustangs finally got some breathing room, scoring three times on their way to a 4-0 win.
Capuchino (4-3 PAL Bay, 11-9 overall) scored its runs on just five hits, which has been a recurring theme this season for the Mustangs. In fact, Burlingame starting pitcher Raine Armanino was working on a no-hitter through four innings — despite trailing 1-0 — before Cap’s Miki Solorzano broke it with a bloop single to right to lead off the fifth inning. All five of the Mustangs hits came in the final three innings.
“We do a lot with a little. I can’t figure it out, but it’s killing me,” said Capuchino coach Todd Grammatico. “We’ve done that a lot this year.”
Burlingame (0-6, 4-12) had its chances, but the Panthers were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, twice loading the bases, but came up empty each time.
“We’re just so young,” said Burlingame coach Doug McKeever. “You see it in at-bats, when [the situation] gets a little tighter. That’s part of being young.”
Credit Capuchino pitcher Rafiella Dade for keeping the Panthers off the scoreboard. The sophomore seemed to be working out of trouble all game long, but came up clutch when the situation demanded it.
Burlingame’s first best scoring chance came in the fourth inning. Kat Marcan led off the inning with a single and went to second on a Lindsey Schloetter sacrifice bunt. Following a single by Sara Slavsky, Rachel Topper walked to load the bases with one out.
Dade locked in, however, and struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.
“Last year, [Dade] had trouble with her control,” Grammatico said. “(She’s improved) night and day over last year. She works really hard.”
The Panthers stranded a runner at third in the fifth, loaded the bases again in the sixth and again came up empty. When Capuchino extended its lead to 4-0 in the top of the sixth, McKeever knew his team was in trouble. The Panthers rely on playing small ball to manufacture runs, which is a lot easier to do down 1-0 than 4-0.
“How do you go small ball when you’re down four?” McKeever asked. “We don’t have a lot of depth, so where do we turn? We have to figure out how to turn this around.”
Capuchino wasn’t a whole lot more successful at the plate, but the Mustangs took advantage of their opportunities. They quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, courtesy of an unearned run. Allie Stines led off the game and hit a ball that went under the first baseman’s glove for an error. She moved to second and then third by way of passed balls and then scored on Kaitlin Chang’s one-out, sacrifice bunt to put the Mustangs up 1-0.
The Mustangs wouldn’t get another runner past second base until the top of the fifth when they loaded the bases on a Lili Luevano single and then back-to-back walks to Stines and Karina Chavarria with two outs. But Slavsky came on to relieve Armanino and got a strikeout to end the inning.
Capuchino loaded the bases again in the top of the seventh and this time the Mustangs came up with big hit. Luevano led off the inning with a single, followed by Adrianna Picazo, who reached on an error. Following a flyout, Chavarria walked to loaded the bases. After a strikeout for the second out of the inning, clean-up hitter Taylor Brazil strode to the plate and, on a 1-1 count, lifted a long fly ball to right field. The drive, coupled with swirling winds, turned the Burlingame right fielder into knots as she tried to track the ball, failing to make the catch and the ball rolling to the fence.
By the time the ball was relayed back into the infield, Brazil was standing on third with a bases-clearing triple, which would give the Mustangs an insurmountable lead.
“It was really a big hit by [Brazil]. I kind of felt Taylor was going to step up. She’s hitting a lot better this year,” Grammatico said, adding Brazil started the season batting out of the No. 7 spot. “Allie Stines has been just a stud this year, hitting, like, .500 this season. Today, she couldn’t do it. But Taylor stepped up.”