The Carson Senators varsity softball team has a good reason for not having any senior leadership to guide it through rough spots this season: It has no seniors.
So when the going got tough during their Friday doubleheader with Douglas at a wind-swept Carson High School, Senators coach Scott Vickrey implored his young players to turn to each other for support.
After dropping the first game, 5-2, to the Lady Tigers, and after trailing 7-1 in the third inning of the second game, the Lady Senators dug deep and took a 14-9 victory over Douglas for the split.
Catcher Dacey Hassey had a huge day at the plate, going 4-for-4, with 6 RBI.
"That's the team I know. Everybody stepped up today," Vickrey said. "It's the first time in a while I was able to see some smiles on their faces."
Coming from behind to defeat their biggest rival in a game that featured a combined 23 runs and 22 hits did more than turn Carson's collective frown upside down.
"I think it made us stronger," Vickrey said of the comeback. "It showed us no matter how far we are down, we can come back. And Douglas is a quality team that can hit the ball. Even when we were up 14-9 I didn't feel the game was in the bag."
And for good reason.
After Carson took a 1-0 lead on a single by second baseman Candice Rutledge in the bottom of the first inning, the Tigers wasted no time in putting the boots to the Senators over the next two innings.
Freshman Cassie Vondrak surrendered four hits over the second and third innings, walked three batters, hit two others with pitches and Douglas took a 7-1 lead.
Vickrey said neither pitcher (Christa Casci went the distance in the first game) was 100 percent (Casci was battling the flu, Vondrak an arm problem). And the Tigers were taking no prisoners.
Douglas pitcher Mitzi Olsen doubled in Lauren Hoppe and Keri Villalobos for the 2-1 lead and another double by catcher Kayla Moore brought in Olsen for a 3-1 lead after two innings.
Olsen got off to a fast start from the circle and had four of her five strikeouts in the first two innings. She also helped her own cause, going 2-for-4, with 4 RBI.
After being hit by a Vondrak pitch to reach base, Felicia Imelli later scored from third on a wild pitch. A fielder's choice brought in Hoppe, who had walked, and it was 5-1.
Olsen ripped a two-run double for the 7-1 lead.
The Senators came to life in the bottom of the third, bringing eight batters to the plate, notching five hits and narrowing the lead to 7-3.
Hassey singled in Casci and Kaitlin Burroughs to make it 7-3. Rutledge followed with a single and, after Vondrak grounded out to short, left fielder Desiree Clampitt brought home Hassey and Rutledge with a long single to make it 7-5.
Vondrack and company kept the Tigers off the board in the top of the fourth and rallied with two more runs in the bottom of the inning to tie it 7-7. Hassey hit an RBI-double to right center, bringing in Casci, and an error in left brought in Hassey.
Carson scored seven more runs in the next two innings to put it away.
Stephanie Harper relieved Olsen with two on and no outs in the top of the fifth. Olsen finished with seven strikeouts, but gave up nine runs and spread out 10 hits.
Harper hit Loretta Cagle with a pitch to load the bases and walked Katie McEwan to bring in a run as Carson went up 8-7. Hassey drilled a single up the middle for a 9-7 lead, which soon turned to 11-7 after Burroughs scored on a Rutledge fielder's choice and when Harper hit Vondrak with a pitch with the bases loaded.
Although a Tisha Luken RBI-single and a Hoppe RBI-double trimmed the lead to 11-9 in the top of the sixth, Carson got three more runs in the bottom of the inning to seal the victory.
Third baseman Abby Rankl scored on an error and Hassey brought in two more with a single up the middle to round out the scoring.
"It wasn't one person today, it was the whole team," Vickrey said after the second game. "I thought we had it (the win in teams' first meeting on March 16), but we lost 1-0. I knew this team (Carson) could hit. The scoreboard looked like it was a football game."
Vondrack had a complete game, giving up nine runs and eight hits. She also walked four and struck out eight.
Olsen took the loss for Douglas. Harper gave up five runs and four hits, while walking two and striking out three in three innings of work.
Things went better for Douglas in the first game. Harper pitched a complete game, striking out seven, while allowing two runs, five hits and three walks.
Casci also went the distance in the loss, allowing five runs and six hits, while walking two and striking out eight.
"We had nobody else to go to today (for relief pitching)," Vickrey said. "Nikki Kellar is out with an ACL (injury) and won't be active until April 3, when she goes to the doctor to get cleared to play. She adds a lot to the lineup."
Although Carson took a 1-0 lead in the first game when Burroughs scored on an error in the top of the first inning, Douglas tied it in the top of the fifth, when Nicole LaPorte also scored on an error.
Douglas scored the rest of its runs in the top of the sixth. Hoppe scored after an error at first for the 2-1 lead. Moore smoked a two-run double to center and Imellii scored on a pitching error for the 5-1 lead.
Sarah Evans scored on a throwing error in the bottom of the sixth for Carson's only other run in the 5-2 loss.
With the split, Carson is now 2-3 overall and 2-2 in the Sierra League. Douglas is now 3-4 overall, 2-2 in conference.
Carson will travel to Reno today to face Hug in a doubleheader, beginning at 10 a.m. Carson won the teams' first meeting, 5-4, on Thursday in Carson.