Carson softball rolls past North Valleys
Appeal Sports Writer
With the softball season approaching the halfway point, Carson coach Scott Vickrey has seen his young team mature before his eyes.
The Lady Senators – heavily laden with underclassmen – took yet another step forward in their maturation process Thursday with an 11-1 drubbing of North Valleys at Carson High School.
With the 10-run mercy rule in effect, the game ended in the bottom of the fifth inning, when a Kaitlin Burroughs single to center brought in Elysa Gutierrez for the victory.
Carson improved its record to 8-4 overall and 7-3 in the Sierra League, where it is now in second place behind undefeated Reno.
North Valleys fell to 3-7 in conference.
“We’re getting it together,” Vickrey said. “Our chemistry is good. We’re real young, but we’re hitting the ball well. Each day we’re growing. We have a lot of games before the end of the season.”
Freshman Cassie Vondrak continued her development as well, pitching four innings, giving up one run on four hits, while striking out four and walking three.
Vondrak was tested right away in the first inning. After putting out leadoff runner Ashly Donaldson on the comebacker, she surrendered a double to Cheyenne Cortez, then a single to Jamie Brown.
Although Ashleigh Mollinedo popped out on an infield fly for the second out, Vickrey said he knew he had a decision to make when Katie Frost came to the plate.
“I saw her during warmups and she was hitting the ball well, so I told Cassie to nickel and dime her – not give her anything,” Vickrey said.
Translation: Frost got the free pass to first base – it just didn’t look intentional.
It not only was a good move – Vondrak got Lady Panthers pitcher Amanda Butler to pop out to Burroughs in center field, it also showed Vondrak her coach believed in her.
“It felt pretty good that he’d have confidence in me to walk the batter,” said the 5-foot-10 Vondrak, who has been undergoing physical therapy on her throwing shoulder. “I had to come back with the bases loaded so they didn’t score.”
Vickrey said he was happy the gamble paid off.
“Cassie did a real good job,” Vickrey said. “She had pop and movement on the ball. She had a few mistakes, but we hit the ball enough. In that first inning, when that girl (Cortez) hit the ball, I thought it might be a long day. (Allowing her to walk Frost) says a lot about my confidence in her.”
Carson was able to get all the runs it would need in the bottom of the first inning. Butler loaded the bases on three consecutive walks to open the game before surrendering an RBI-single to hot-hitting catcher Dacey Hassey, who brought in shortstop Christa Casci.
Burroughs subsequently scored from third on a passed ball to make it 2-0.
North Valleys gave up four errors in the game, while Butler allowed all 11 runs and seven hits, while walking five in going the distance. One of those hits was quite painful, when Vondrak hit a liner off Butler’s shin in the bottom of the third, which landed Vondrak on first and scored Desiree Clampitt to make it 5-1.
“It was good to see the bats going,” Vickrey said. “(Butler) did a good job. She was a tough girl. Cassie hit her in the leg and she made it through the rest of the game.”
Carson erupted for five runs in third and took a commanding 7-1 lead. After leading off the inning with a single, Abby Rankl later scored from third on Butler’s throwing error to first to make it 3-1.
Hassey scored on a passed ball before Vondrak’s painful comebacker to Butler, and left fielder Sarah Evans and Loretta Cagle scored on a throwing error by Panthers third baseman Jessica Kleinschmidt.
Second baseman Candice Rutledge swelled Carson’s lead to 8-1 in the fourth, doubling in Rankl, who had earlier singled. Rankl finished 2-for-2, scoring two runs.
Rutledge subsequently scored on a passed ball to give the Senators a 9-1 lead after four.
In the bottom of the fifth, Vondrak – who was pinch running for reliever Nicki Keller – also scored on a throwing error for the 10-1 lead, before Burroughs’ game-ending single.
“We’ve been focusing on hitting the last two weeks,” Vickrey said. “That’s all we’ve been doing. It’s paying off right now.”
Vickrey was also upbeat about Keller, who saw her first action of the year after being out with an ACL injury since October. The freshman, who gave up one hit and struck out two in one inning, gives the Senators another arm in the circle to go with Vondrak and Casci.
With 12 games now under their belts, three pitchers and some hot bats – not to mention being in second place – the Senators are maturing at just the right time.
“We’ve got a lot of games (today) and Saturday,” said Vickrey of his team’s trip to the Susanville Tournament, which is another chance to gain some experience as well as get Keller into pitching shape. “We play Red Bluff first and we have three games (today). We’ll be seeing a lot of live pitching.”
And they’ll be able to continue to grow up in a hurry, which is good news for them and what they’re hoping is bad news for everybody else.