RENO - In the early season battle for Sierra League supremacy, round one went to Damonte Ranch, 7-5, and that will probably gnaw at Carson coach Scott Vickrey and his team for quite a while.
"This is one we let get away," said Vickrey, whose team lost for the first time in 4A play on Tuesday afternoon. "We just weren't clean enough today (in the field). We have some good bats, but you can't give a team that good too many opportunities.
"Lindsey (Ashbaugh) did a pretty good job in the circle. She kept them off balance. We knew they were going to hit. We seemed to be in a hole a lot because their lead-off hitter kept getting on."
Indeed. In six of the seven innings, Damonte Ranch got its first batter of the inning on base, and three times she scored. Carson never had a 1-2-3 inning the entire game, as the Mustangs made Ashbaugh work for every strike and every out.
The turning point in the game came in the bottom of the fifth when Damonte scored three times to wipe out a 5-3 deficit.
Winning pitcher Kayln Paque led off with an infield single and reached third on a double to left-centerfield. Ashbaugh quickly got Makenzie Hospodka in an 0-2 hole, but got too much of the plate with her next pitch, and Hospodka ripped a triple into the right-centerfield gap to score both runs, tying the game at 5.
After retiring Jahnel Smith on a roller to first, Ashbaugh struck out Jasmine Chapell. However, catcher Danielle Morrow dropped the throw and had to throw to first to get the out. Hospodka stormed home with the go-ahead run to make it 6-5.
Carson threatened in the sixth when Becca Breuer doubled to right-centerfield and moved to third on a wild pitch. Skyler Jones attempted a safety squeeze, but Breuer was unable to advance. Morgan Kleine popped to third and Emily Collins hit the ball on line right at the centerfielder to end the threat.
Damonte tacked on an insurance run in the sixth.
Meghan Hospodka singled and was forced at second by Adelle Oaks. Chanel Bates followed with a grounder to second baseman Ellise McGowan. The ball went through McGowan's legs and went all the way to the fence allowing Oaks to score.
"Knowing Ellise, she was looking to turn the double play and get us out of the inning," Vickrey said.
Carson went out meekly in the seventh against Paque, who gave up 10 hits but only one earned run. Paque retired seven of the last nine hitters she faced.
"She (Paque) was up in the zone a bit, and with their hitting that's going to be a problem," Damonte coach Tierney Cahill said. "They are a good hitting team. Every time we play them I worry. I've been here eight years, and it's always been a battle with them."
After being staked to a quick 2-0 lead (both runs were unearned), Carson got one back in the second when Ashbaugh crushed a Paque offering over the fence in left-centerfield.
After Damonte added a run in the second for a 3-1 lead, Carson scored four unearned runs in the third for a 5-3 lead.
Collins started the rally with a one-out single and moved to second when Jen Purcell's pop-up was misplayed. Morrow singled to load the bases. Ashbaugh followed with a fly ball to center which was dropped by oaks allowing two runs to score. McGowan redeemed herself for a first-inning error with a two-run double to make it 5-3.
Carson is now 4-1 in league. Carson hosts Galena at 3:45 p.m. Thursday.