RENO - At first the Carson Senators softball team was not just stemming the tide that was the Reno Huskies, but it was even pushing it backward, loading the bases in the first inning on Reno starter Samantha Baker.
But Baker and her defense clamped down on Carson and her team's offensive tidal wave washed over the Lady Senators for an eight-run third inning along the way to a 13-3 Sierra League win Thursday at Reno High School.
Brittain Murdock singled in the final run in a five-run fifth inning, which ended the game because of the mercy rule.
The victory improved the Huskies to 9-0 in league play and 12-2 overall, while dropping the Senators to 6-1, 13-2, heading into the teams' doubleheader Saturday at Carson High School.
"They're a great hitting team," Carson coach Scott Vickrey said. "The (earned run average) of our squad coming in was low. To hammer the ball on us says a lot about them."
Carson starter Nikki Keller took the loss, surrendering eight runs (six earned) on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings. She was relieved by Cassie Vondrak, who gave up five runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Carson shortstop Christa Casci started the game off with a single off Baker, but was put out at second on Desirae Clampitt's fielder's choice.
Baker subsequently walked third baseman Abby Rankl and catcher Dacey Hassey to load the bases, but escaped the inning unscathed when Vondrak hit into a double play at second to end the inning.
Baker went the distance, allowing three runs (two earned), three hits, four walks and striking out three.
"That first inning was huge," said Jim Pace, in his sixth year as Reno's coach. "With the bases loaded and (Vondrak) hitting a line drive into a double play, it could have changed the whole outlook of the game if the ball got through and a couple of runs scored. It gave us a little momentum."
Vickrey credited Reno's defense for keeping Carson off the scoreboard early.
"Christa started out that first inning with a hit, but they can field the bunt very well and threw her out at second," Vickrey said. "The bases were loaded, Cassie hits a line drive at second...two feet right, two feet left and we score three. I think it might have led to the (third) inning where we gave up eight hits."
The Senators didn't help themselves with two errors in the third, but Reno's bats had more to do with the outburst. The ball seemed to have eyes of its own as the Huskies continually got hits where the Senators weren't - in the gaps, between players and over players' gloves.
Reno sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning.
Catcher Jessica Pavletto belted an RBI-single to right to open the scoring off Keller. Samantha Puzey followed with a two-run single for a 3-0 lead and two batters and one hit later, Keri Losure hit a triple between Kaitlin Burroughs and Daria Leid to make it 5-0.
A throwing error by Casci at first scored Losure and after Naomi Garcia reached on a single, Heather Barker knocked a single over second base for a 7-0 lead.
Vondrak relieved Keller, but Carson got no relief as Garcia stole home on a putout attempt at second by Hassey.
"We hit some balls hard; some balls we didn't hit so hard," Pace said. "That's the game. They hit balls we caught. It all evens out. Some balls have eyes; some that don't get caught. Puzey's first hit was smoked (she went 1-for-4 with 2 RBI and scored 2 runs).
"Hitting is contagious. Those first two innings we didn't hit any at all. Then our nine-hole hitter (Barker, 3-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 runs) hit one to the gap."
The Senators responded by chipping away at the lead and temporarily settled down behind Vondrak's pitching.
Rankle led off the fourth with a walk and went to second on a passed ball. Hassey advanced her to third with a single before being put out at second on a Vondrak fielder's choice. Rankl put the Senators on the board when she came home on a putout attempt at second base.
Vondrak closed the gap to 8-2 on a wild pitch and Burroughs later scored on a passed ball to make it 8-3 in the top of the fifth, but Reno put it away with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
Pauletto led the Huskies, going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI and 2 runs. Eight out of nine Reno batters had at least one hit for a well-balanced attack (the Huskies had 13 hits) and a lot of momentum headed into Saturday's twin bill.
Pace was happy, but not satisfied with Baker's outing.
"I don't think she threw as good as she could," he said. "She's been a good pitcher for us. She didn't have everything today. She had four walks, which is uncharacteristic for her. We had good defense. We take pride in defense. We work hard on it every day. Most of the girls have been with me long enough to know what to expect."
Bloody but unbowed: That seemed to be Vickrey's assessment of his team.
"We started nickling back with a couple of runs and we shut them down in the fourth, but they came back in the fifth and burned us," Viceroy said. "They're a great team. We look forward to seeing them Saturday. Maybe things will turn out differently.
"I told (his players) that we played five innings of ball and lost two. We played even with them three out of five. To ask them to beat them for seven innings is not that big of a stretch. Our record is pretty good this year. That's the first time we were beat up bad. We're ready to get even come Saturday."
The doubleheader begins at 10 a.m.