The Carson Senators softball team finished its preseason the same way it started it: with some hot bats and solid pitching.
The Lady Senators improved to 7-0 Tuesday with an 8-3 victory over the Dayton Dust Devils at Carson High School.
Carson banged out 12 hits in support of sophomore starter Nikki Keller, who gave up three runs (one earned) and spread out five hits in six innings of work.
Junior shortstop Christa Casci continued her torrid pace (after four games she was batting 1,000), going 4-for-4 with 2 RBI, including a first-pitch homer off Dayton's Brittany Curtis in the first inning to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.
"Christa Casci is having a fantastic season already," said fourth-year Carson coach Scott Vickrey. "She started off this game with a home run and she started off with a stand-up triple in (the Lassen Tournament)."
Vickrey said Casci also is an asset defensively.
"I'm always telling our coaches how much richer we are with her (in the field)," he said of Casci, who played guard for the Senators basketball team last season. "She has good range at shortstop. She's an even better outfielder than she is a shortstop, but we need her here (at short). She's just effortless on flyouts the way she tracks down balls. She played some summer ball."
Although Vickrey said he was pretty happy to be 7-0 at this point of the season, he said his team could've done some things better against Dayton, which fell to 1-3.
"Our girls came off the tournament and struggled," Vickrey said. "Today we made a lot of mistakes. We weren't making bunts. I'm not happy about that."
The Senators also played a bit sloppy defensively, committing five errors, including three in the fourth inning, when Dayton scored all of its runs and took a 3-2 lead.
The Dust Devils loaded the bases after Melissa Goetz reached on a Keller error, Breann DeHaven got hit by a Keller pitch and Amanda Beard reached first on an error.
Casci minimized the damage by throwing out Goetz at the plate (Sara Simmons made it to first on the fielder's choice), but Caty Cross's single brought in DeHaven.
Curtis singled and a Carson outfield error made it 3-2 in favor of Dayton.
Carson got right back in it in the bottom of the inning when pitch hitter Loretta Cagle hit a first-pitch home run to center to tie it at 3.
"It was nice to see that," Vickrey said of the sophomore's first-ever varsity round-tripper. "It was big for her. We snuck around the fence and got the ball for her."
In addition to getting a memento, Cagle finished the game 1-for-1 with 2 RBI, adding a sacrifice fly in the fifth to give Carson a 6-3 lead.
With Keller in command on the mound, Carson assumed full control and ultimately won the game with its five-run fifth.
A Kaitlin Burroughs sacrifice bunt and a Curtis error scored catcher Dacey Hassey for a 4-3 Senators lead. Desirae Clampitt (2-for-4, 1 RBI) singled in a runner before Cagle's sacrifice fly made it 6-3.
Daria Leid -who would later relieve Keller on the mound - added an RBI-single and Casci hit an RBI-double for the 8-3 lead.
Casci scored on a passed ball to make it 2-0 in the third inning to round out the scoring for the Senators.
"Our bats are hot. Our bats are on fire," Vickrey said. "But after Christa Casci hit her homer, it seemed like we were trying to yank stuff over the fence."
Vickrey blamed himself for Keller's fourth-inning error.
"Nikki did well. One of the mistakes we made was in coaching," Vickrey said. "Instead of having her take infield practice, we put her in the pen with (pitching coach) Bob (Carvin). When she got the ground ball hit to her, that's just us - coaching mistakes. She'll be ready to go."
Keller started last year as a freshman and her experience is already showing.
"She changed speeds up and hit her spots today," Vickrey said. "That's what we need her to do. She kept us in the game and we beat (Dayton)."
Leid - a freshman - allowed one hit and no runs in the seventh after coming in for Keller.
"We're trying to get her some innings," Vickrey said of Leid, who joins sophomore Cassie Vondrak and Keller on the mound. "She throws with a lot of velocity. She's got a good handle on her control. We'll work on her changing speeds and she'll fit right in."
Curtis went the distance for Dayton, giving up eight runs (five earned), 12 hits and one walk.
With the preseason out of the way Vickrey said his team will be ready to open up Sierra League play Thursday against South Tahoe. The game begins at 3:30 p.m. at Carson High School.
"Things became a little bit clearer," Vickrey said of where his team needs to improve. "We have some baserunning issues to clear up and we need to work on our bunting."
Add those improvements to its batting and pitching prowess and Carson will have a shot at making its league play as exciting as its preseason.
CHS JVS 13, DAYTON 7
Carson overcame a 7-4 deficit, scoring three runs in the fifth and six runs in the sixth for the win. Belen Munoz had four hits, including two doubles, four RBI and two runs.
Melissa Coyle entered the game on the mound in the fourth and shut down Dayton, not allowing a run for the win. Also for Carson, Rebecca Gansberg had two hits and two runs, Tami Conn had two hits and two RBI, Hannah Shaw had two hits and two runs and played well defensively at second and Tiffany O'Day had a hit, an RBI and two runs.