Carson High's Mandy Carvin and Nicole Ellis of North Valleys came away with a split in their dual between two primetime Northern 4A softball pitchers on Saturday afternoon.
Game one went to Carvin, who hurled a four-hitter and worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to preserve Carson's 1-0 victory. Ellis, who allowed three hits in the opener, evened the score in game two with a three-hit performance as North Valleys salvaged a split of the doubleheader between Sierra League playoff contenders.
Carson (2-3 league, 6-6-1 overall) is in the thick of the race for a top-four finish that would qualify for the Northern 4A Regional Tournament next month. Since North Valleys (1-1 league) is the team that knocked Carson out of the playoffs last year, it was almost imperative to win at least one of those games at home Saturday.
The Senators came through, as they scored one run in the first inning and made it stand the rest of the way to win.
Christa Casci singled to lead off the first, then Candice Rutledge reached on a fielder's choice, stole second and came home on an error.
Carvin made the lead stand, although there were some anxious moments along the way. The senior right-hander got a strikeout to end the third inning with a runner at third, then got a called strike-three to end the fourth with two runners aboard.
North Valleys staged its biggest threat in the seventh when Ellis walked, Katrina Cherry doubled and then Katie Frost was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out. Carvin got a called strikeout for the second out to bring up Cheyenne Cortez. With two strikes on the count, Cortez hit a soft liner down the left field line that appeared to draw chalk - which would have brought two runs home - but was called foul. Moments later, Carvin got a swinging strike three to end the game.
The final pitch was called from the dugout by Bob Carvin, Carson's pitching coach and Mandy's father.
"It was an outside curve," she said. "He (coach Carvin) called it inside, I wanted to go outside. I had gone inside on her before and she kept hitting it to the left side, so I wanted to go outside.
"That was a tight spot and I was scared, so I was proud to get that (out)," added Carvin, who had seven strikeouts and two walks in the game.
Coach Scott Vickrey decided to rest the team's ace - who missed the end of last season with a sore right shoulder - and sent freshman Christa Gasci out to start game two.
"Mandy was tired at the end of that first game," Vickrey said. "Her velocity was starting to drop, so we talked it over with her. Winning that first game was huge because then we were able to rest her and give Christa the start."
North Valleys scored three runs, aided by two singles and a throwing error that brought home the first run. Casci avoided further damage in the inning thanks to a 6-4-3 double play - Liz Rankl-to-Jamie Yenter-to-Jessica Grant. After that, the freshman only allowed two more hits and no runs over the next three innings before Carvin came on to pitch in relief in the fifth.
"It was 3-2 and we were going for the win so we brought Mandy in to finish the game," Vickrey said. "But after that first inning, Christa settled down and did a pretty good job. You couldn't have asked for any more out of her."
North Valleys scored one run off Carvin in the fifth after a two-out error led to a bases loaded, RBI single by Cherry.
Ellis pitched her second complete game of the day, struck out eight and walked four.
"We were a little disappointed about the second game. If we had taken two, that would have been a big step toward the playoffs. They just beat us. They played a good game and Nicole threw a good game."
Dacey Hassey hit 2-for-2, including a leadoff double in the fourth. Liz Rankl had Carson's other hit, a first inning single that led to a run. Hassey also singled, stole two bases and scored on an overthrow to make it 3-2.
Note: Casci is scheduled to pitch Monday when Carson hosts Damonte Ranch at 3:30 p.m. to make up a game that was postponed on Friday due to bad weather.
n Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220.