Merced College softball coach Suzanne McGhee gathered her team and talked about determination.
She preached about finding a way to close out games when they're on the line.
Merced College did what it could to take her message to heart Tuesday afternoon, but came up short in doubleheader losses to American River, 5-2 in the opener and 12-7 in the nightcap at She-Devil Diamond.
The Beavers rallied after a number Merced leads in the second game before erupting for five runs in the top of the eighth inning to pull off a sweep.
"We had our chances," McGhee said. "We put tons of girls on base and just couldn't get them in. Just pushing across one more run in a couple of innings would have made all the difference.
"In the end it came down to where the adrenaline was in the last inning and who was going to step up and find a way to win."
The She-Devils (3-6) certainly had their chances to break the game open and earn a split after the opening loss. MC left 13 runners on base and went just 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
McGhee's squad left the bases loaded twice and couldn't cash on an opportunity for a walk-off hit in the seventh.
Mari Valdez (3 for 4, RBI) got the threat started with a one-out single. Gabriella Espinosa moved her into scoring position when ARC pitcher Karolanne Tipton couldn't handle Espinosa's chopper up the middle.
Tipton responded, however, recording back-to-back strikeouts to escape the jam.
"That seventh inning was set up perfectly for us," McGhee said. "Two on and one out with our two and three hitters up and we don't even get a ball in play.
"That gave them a lot of momentum going into the eighth."
The Beavers (5-1) seized the momentum, pounding out five runs on five hits in the eighth.
"We kept fighting and playing hard, even when they went up by five in the eighth," said freshman third baseman Riyn Williams, who was 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. "We had lots of chances, but could never get that big hit."
The perfect example of that came in the first inning, when MC put its first four batters on base.
A couple walks, sandwiched around an Emily Silva sacrifice bunt that ARC threw away, loaded the bases with no one out.
Louisiana Brasil (2 for 4, two RBIs) singled in Espinosa to tie the game at 1-1. Williams drew a one-out walk to push across a second run, but the She-Devils stalled there with consecutive pop ups to end the inning.
MC had similar scenarios play out in the fourth and fifth innings, scoring two runs in each, but failed to break it open.
That allowed the Beavers to keep coming back.
Tipton tied the game at 3-3 with a two-out, two-run single in the fourth inning.
Alexandra Elder doubled in three runs in the fifth to give American River a 6-5 lead.
That lead didn't last long as Valdez singled in a run and Dom Godoy drew a bases-loaded walk to put the She-Devils back on top in the bottom half of the inning.
ARC answered again in the sixth.
Left fielder Chelsea DeLeon appeared to play the role of hero when she gunned down Kacie Freymond at the plate, but the Beavers' Gisselle Jimenez followed with a run-scoring single to tie the game at 7-7.
"It was a good response after the loss in the first game," McGhee said. "We had a much better effort.
"The perspective from here on out, up until league starts, is how we get a little bit better everyday."
Sun-Star sports writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.