Pitman High softball had a hard time containing Merced ace Madilyn Nickles on Friday afternoon in the teams' first Central California Conference meeting of the year.
Nickles pitched a complete game, allowing just four hits, no walks and striking out 12, and gave the Bears the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth to take a one-run lead with two outs.
Nickles was able to fend off the Pride in the seventh with a three-up and three-down inning, despite playing with an injured toe, as Merced finished atop, 5-1.
“We needed to hit better today with runners on,” said Pitman head coach Joe Lewis. “We didn’t hit very well today compared to other games and I told our girls that Nickles is a good pitcher, she won’t throw many balls so we needed to jump on her early.”
Instead, it was Nickles who jumped out early on the Pride, striking out five of six in the first two innings.
Pitman has now lost to Merced in three of their last four meetings dating back to last year and have been outscored 18 -5 in those games.
“We would get behind in the count and against a pitcher like her and a team like Merced, its trouble,” said Lewis.
Friday wasn’t the best game for Pitman, and in the sixth inning, it all came crashing down.
Pitman starter Denae Finney tossed 5 and 2/3 innings, allowing just a single hit before the Bears went on a rally.
Merced was leading 1-0 heading into the start of the fourth when Pitman was making waves.
Lehua Deleon and Alanah Laupua each got on base and then with one out, Claire Fountain reached base safely to load up the bases.
With Michelle Robinson up at the plate and bases loaded, Deleon was able to steal home on a pass ball that came on the first pitch of the at-bat to tie the game at 1-1.
Unfortunately for the Pride, that was the only offense provided by the team which had just four hits for the entire game along with no walks.
Merced managed to get things going with two outs after Rheanne Lewis reached third base after getting moved over.
Then with two outs, Nickles up at the plate with two outs and on the second pitch she drilled a deep RBI double to right center to go up 2-1 and the Bears never looked back.
Three more runs were tacked on with three RBI doubles coming from Monique Collins, Liliana Ramirez and Phoebe Arista.
Nickles struck out two of the final three batters faced, including seven in the final three innings as she picked up the win and gave the Bears a 2-0 edge in the CCC.
Pitman, which toppled Golden Valley earlier in the week, 14-7, goes to 1-1 in the CCC.
“The girls know because it was 1-1 heading into the sixth against the best team in our league arguably,” Lewis added. “And they [Merced] always compete for the CCC title, but hopefully they take that they can compete with anybody in this league even though we are as young as we are.”
Deleon and Fountain each had a hit and Alanah Laupua was 2-for-3.
Pitman’s next game will be at home against Atwater at 4 p.m. Wednesday.