SACRAMENTO — Madilyn Nickles was admittedly nervous.
The Merced High freshman pitcher was making her playoff debut, toeing the rubber on Saturday morning against Roseville.
The Sacramento Softball Complex atmosphere coupled with the pressure of the stage had Nickles a little overly amped up.
Her command suffered as a result.
Nickles' offspeed pitches were particularly troublesome and she uncharacteristically walked four. Roseville made her pay every time, with all four coming around to score in a 5-3 victory over the Bears Saturday in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs.
"I was more nervous than I thought I would be," Nickles said. "It was my first playoff game. My travel ball coaches were there watching. I think I was just a little too pumped up in that first inning.
"My dad came down and pointed out a couple little mechanical things I was doing wrong. It went much better after that."
The Tigers' Alyson Manzo drew a leadoff walk to open the game. A sacrifice bunt moved her to second and a pair of wild pitches allowed her to come home for the game's opening run.
A two-out RBI double by Kayla Fields and a run-scoring single from Justine Garner made it 3-0 Roseville.
With her dad's suggestions, Nickles did settle in after that. After giving up a one-out single in the second inning, the Bears' ace retired 12 straight.
That gave the Merced offense time to get going.
The Bears (22-6) threatened with runners on in each of the first three innings, but couldn't get the one hit to ignite them. Megan Kravec (2 for 3) provided the elusive spark in the fourth.
Nickles opened the inning with a single, but looked in danger of getting stranded again after two quick outs. Kravec quickly fell behind in the count 0-2, but hammered a mistake from Fields to dead center for a two-run home run.
"It was completely unexpected, but it was a great feeling," Kravec said. "We were playing better, but it just seemed like we needed something to get us going. When I got back into dugout, you could see how fired up everyone was."
Merced tied the game 3-3 one inning later.
Rheanne Lewis (2 for 3), who had a big afternoon by reaching safely in all four of her plate appearances, singled to open the fifth. Shelbee Ward followed with an opposite-field single and Lewis aggressively went first-to-third on the play. The Tigers (21-7-1) threw the ball away trying to get Lewis at third, and she cruised home to tie things up.
Roseville answered right back in the sixth.
A one- and two-out walk got the Tigers' rally started. MacKensie Priley and Stephenie Johnson produced back-to-back run-scoring singles and Roseville went right back on top 5-3.
Merced got the tying runs aboard in the seventh, but a tapper back to the pitcher brought the Bears' season to an end.
"I'm very proud of the effort," Merced coach Bart McAfee said. "We played well and fought right back into the game.
"I told the girls, if we saw competition like that all the time we'd be right there with them. As it was, we gave them all they could handle."
Rocklin 6, Buhach Colony 1
At Sacramento The Thunder got the exact start it was looking for against nationally-ranked Rocklin.
Mary Castillo singled to open the game and would come around to score on a throwing error. It was a dream start for BC head coach Michelle Osmer as the early lead helped calm the nerves in her young squad.
The Rocklin bats got going eventually, however, with Jaclyn Amader (2 for 4) and Jillian Lerner (2 for 4) each knocking in runs.
After being held to four hits by Castillo through the first five innings, Rocklin broke the game open with a three-run sixth.
"We wanted to go up and be aggressive at the plate and I think we did a good job of executing the game plan," Osmer said. "We put the bat on the ball and had people on base in pretty much every inning. We only struck out once, which I was proud of.
"We just needed to be able to string a few more hits together."
Waterford 2, Le Grand 1
At Stockton The Wildcats ruined the Bulldogs' hopes of a second championship in three years.
Kylie Ragsdale helped her own cause, doubling in the eventual-winning run in the bottom of the sixth. The right-hander also went the distance in the circle, striking out 11 hitters.
Kinsey Haas gave the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the top of the third inning.
Waterford answered right back, however, with a run-scoring single by London Miller in the bottom of the third.