Making her first appearance of the season on the mound, one might have expected Carson High School softball pitcher Nicole Freeman to appear rusty, especially considering she hadn't thrown a pitch in a high school game since the state playoffs last May.
But Freeman, who stuck to playing the infield due to a sore knee during the Senators' first four games, was just as sharp as she had been last season when she compiled a 16-7 record and a 1.26 ERA. She pitched three shutout innings and struck out seven of the nine South Tahoe batters she faced to help the Senators (5-0) defeat the Vikings 8-1 at home on Thursday.
Freeman downplayed her pitching performance, saying she didn't care whether she pitched or played in the field so long as Carson continued to make progress toward its goal of winning the 4A state title.
"I just play where they put me and try to do my best," said Freeman when asked if she had a position preference. "(There's no favorite position) as long as I'm playing and having fun. It's my senior year; we're gonna try and go all the way this year."
Freeman wasn't the only pitching story in the Senators' win. Kendra Carlsen pitched the first three innings and gave up just one run to pick up the win, and Melissa Stone pitched one scoreless inning and struck out two Vikings.
Carson coach John Sullivan's lone worry about his pitching staff now is just finding enough innings of work for his talented staff.
"We just want to give people work, after having played a lot of five-inning games," Sullivan said. "This was a good opportunity for all the girls to get out and throw. We've got three good pitchers who all need the work."
South Tahoe coach Rich Barna took it as a compliment that Carson used its top three pitchers against the Vikings, now 2-3. The game against Carson was the Vikings' fifth of a 10-game road stretch to start the South Tahoe season. (South Tahoe's field is usually unplayable during the early season due to snow.)
"Carson came right at us, and I expected (Sullivan) to do that, because we've been playing tough," Barna said. "We're not the 'lay down' team that some people may think we are. We're working real hard to be competitive.
"I have a lot of respect for Carson's team. These guys have a good program down here - we knew what we getting into when we came down here."
South Tahoe took an early 1-0 lead when Tammy Cowan singled home Heather Roderick in the top of the first.
Carson rebounded to score four runs in the first off Tahoe starting pitcher Corrine Edwards.
Tricia Hudgins got the rally started for Carson with a double. Freeman and Amanda Hoff then walked to load the bases.
Chrissy Joseph then singled, which scored Hudgins and Freeman to give the Senators a 2-1 lead. Carlsen then followed with a single that plated Hoff and Joseph to give Carson its 4-1 lead.
That lead was never seriously challenged, as Carlsen settled down over the next two innings and allowed only one more hit. Neither Stone nor Freeman allowed South Tahoe a hit.
Hudgins was a tough out for the Vikings all day, as she finished the game 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Carlsen helped her own cause by going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Freeman was 2-for-3 with a double and RBI, and Joseph was 2-for-2 with two RBIs.
Carson will try to remain undefeated this Saturday when the Senators play reigning zone-champion Wooster in Reno, a doubleheader set to begin at 10 a.m.