Fountain Valley softball takes first of key league games with Newport Harbor
Newport Harbor High School claimed the first two Wave League softball championships by winning the first two of three meetings with runner-up Fountain Valley.
Now the Barons are in command of the title race, riding freshman right-hander Courtney Kols, two hits and two runs from sophomore Taylor Reynolds, and four Newport Harbor errors to a 6-0 home victory Tuesday afternoon in the season’s first showdown.
The Sailors gave up four unearned runs in the third through fifth innings and stranded eight runners on base, four of them in scoring position, to absorb just their third loss in 21 Wave League outings since the Sunset League split into two four-team divisions in the 2018-19 school year.
With neither Corona del Mar nor Laguna Beach likely to give either of the frontrunners any problems, Fountain Valley (10-4-1, 2-0 in the Wave League) — ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 poll — can all but clinch its first Wave League title with a victory April 7 at Newport Harbor (11-3, 2-1). The Sailors, who are fifth in the Division 4 rankings, must win that one and the April 26 league finale at Fountain Valley to snare another crown.
“I’m just happy we do play them two more times,” Newport Harbor coach Theresa Byrnes said. “So we get a great chance to come back and erase those errors and show them what we can do — and not pop up the ball constantly.”
Kols (7-3) tossed her third shutout of the season, scattering six hits and working out of trouble three times in the first four innings and again in the seventh. She got the Sailors to pop up on 17 of their 21 outs.
“Once she figured out her foot — she was having a little bit of an issue with her foot — she settled down and did what I knew she could do,” Fountain Valley head coach Rick Aldrich said. “When she gets in trouble, she has a tendency to focus a little more and she does what she needs to do. She’s been great all year.”
The Sailors got runners to second three times in the first four innings — on Chase Dionio’s first-inning double to left, Kori Villeneuve’s single to left and a two-out walk in the second, and Villeneueve’s ground-rule double to right-center in the fourth. Kols induced pop-up outs to get out of trouble each time.
“We were under everything ...,” said Sailors right-hander McKayla Cotton (7-3), who surrendered three hits and three unearned runs in four innings. “By the end, we had no energy, nothing. They wanted it more than us, honestly.”
The Barons went ahead after Andrea Maldonado was plunked by Cotton with one out in the third. She headed to third base when right fielder Charlotte Coder overthrew first baseman Ava Nolan on Kira Velasco’s single, then came home on Veronica Moore’s sacrifice fly.
It was 3-0 when Brooke Bonny and Reynolds led off the bottom of the fourth with singles. Shortstop Dru Stinson’s error brought home one run and Jenna Bixler’s sacrifice fly plated the other. Then Delaney Mondino singled to start the bottom of the fifth, stole second, went to third on a groundout and came home when Cotton, playing at first after Ava Nolan took over in the circle, threw wildly trying to double her off the bag after snagging a line drive.
Fountain Valley added two more in the sixth, with Makenzie Butt tripling home Reynolds and scoring on a groundout.
Aldrich likes his team’s chances in the Wave League race.
“This year, the difference is we’ve got actual pitching,” he said. “We’ve been struggling with pitching the last couple of years. We haven’t had somebody who’s a true pitcher, and now we have a true pitcher, so we’re expecting things to be different this year.”
The Sailors will do all they can to keep things the same.
“We’re excited for [the next two with them],” Cotton said. “We’re definitely going to bring it now that we know in order to win league, we’ve got to beat them two times. We’re definitely going to bring it.”
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