After three years of getting dominated by Merced (10-2), the Pitman High (9-3) varsity softball team finally made history on Friday afternoon, topping the Bears at home, 3-2, and snapping an eight game losing streak that dated back to the 2012 season.
“Our freshman year we beat Merced twice but it's been a while,” said Pitman senior starting pitcher Alexis Mettler.
“It feels good to get this win because we haven't had as good a game against Merced in a while and I still have butterflies in my stomach,” said Pitman senior catcher Nicole Bailey. “I am really excited about this last stretch.”
Before Friday's game, Pitman's last win against Merced was in April 2012.
“I know these girls had it in them all year long I been saying that,” said Pitman head coach Joe Lewis. “The girls could have gave up when it was tie but they didn't, they kept battling and got the win. I am really excited for them this was big.”
After the win, Pitman is one game behind first place Merced in the Central California Conference with three games remaining in the regular season schedule.
Pitman has also tied their school record for regular season wins (18) that dates back to 2011, and have won eight straight since losing to Merced back on April 1.
“After losing to Merced the last game we bounced right back and then from that point forward we felt confident and knew we could win Conference,” said Pitman assistant Greg Mettler. “We knew if we made less mistakes and not let it haunt us then we could do something and the girls just never looked back.”
Friday marked a critical showdown between the top two teams in the CCC and it wasn't a letdown.
The Pride started things off as cool as the other side of the mountain with freshman Lehua DeLeon leading off with a base hit and Alexis Mettler followed with a walk.
Then both decided to go for a double steal and that was followed by a wild pitch that allowed DeLeon to score the first run of the game and take a 1-0 lead off Merced starter Madilyn Nickles.
In the second inning and two outs on the board, senior Cady Riley drove a 2-2 rise ball up the middle and then stole second and third to set up the next run. Freshman Holland Henson hit an RBI double to drive in Riley and the Pride took a 2-0 lead heading into the third.
“I am proud of these girls they came out and didn't make any errors, locked the bases down and made the basic plays and put the ball in play,” said Greg Mettler. “You can't do much better than that because Merced has a great pitcher and phenomenal bats.”
Merced, who was ranked 68th in the state heading into this matchup, was not going down without a fight, although Pitman starter Alexis Mettler made it very difficult.
Mettler tossed a complete game, allowed only two runs on five hits and struck out nine but went through some rough patches.
With two outs in the top of the third, Nickles found a first pitch from Mettler down the middle and drove it to left center for an RBI double and cut the lead to one.
Luckily Mettler got out of the jam but in the fifth inning, Nickles would again position herself nicely after another RBI double scored the tying run.
“It was just one of those things of not trying to get into my head too much and keep my composure,” Mettler said.
Pitman stayed quiet in the third, fourth and fifth innings until the sixth approached then the Pride kept calm and let Merced make the errors.
“I feel like we played more as a team today than ever. We were all really focused and I felt like we were confident in our at-bats and enthusiastic,” said Bailey.
With two outs in the sixth and runners on the corner at first and third, senior Spencer Bronken decided to steal second base and Merced committed an error on a wild throw for the pickoff which allowed freshman Morgan Aguiniga to score the game winning run from third.
“From one through nine on our lineup, I believe anybody in there can put the ball in play and can make something happen,” said Greg Mettler. “If the top of our lineup isn't working then our bottom will. If the girls keep their poise then we are looking at a deep playoff run, but you just hope you keep that going.”
Alexis Mettler kept her calm for the final three outs, striking out the final batter and giving her team something to remember, winning percentage wise, the best record in school history.
“It's great that we all played to our potential because we have so much ability and it's great to see it all come together into the year and hopefully we can carry it into the playoffs and do well,” said Mettler.
Pitman will continue its quest for the CCC title as they travel to Atwater High to take on the Falcons at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.