Success is measured differently when you’re facing a pitcher like Merced ace Madilyn Nickles.
Atwater coach Robert Santistevan was happy with his hitters’ approach despite a 4-0 loss Wednesday afternoon against the Bears.
“This was our best game against her,” Santistevan said. “We went up swinging at anything that could be called a strike. That was the game plan.”
The Falcons scratched out five hits, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider that Nickles has five no-hitters this season and has shut out the Falcons in all three games.
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After losing 1-0 and 2-0 to Nickles and Merced previously, Atwater again put up a fight. Merced was clinging to a 1-0 lead until Mo Collins hit a solo homer in the fifth.
“Mo’s home run was really the turning point,” said Merced coach Bart McAfee. “That finally gave us a cushion. We could finally breath.”
Gracie Santistevan did her part to keep the Falcons (12-10, 6-5 Central California Conference) in the game. The senior held the Bears to just five hits and three earned runs.
Merced (17-5, 10-1) stole a run in the first inning. With runners on first and third, Nickles stole second and Katelynn Geitler raced home to third on the throw to second.
The Falcons had a pair of runners on in the first and fifth innings, but they couldn’t get the big hit against Nickles, who struck out 12 with no walks.
“They were a lot more aggressive,” Nickles said. “I’ll give them props for that. My approach was the same, but I threw a little more changeups and changed my speeds rather than throwing the hard drop.”
Merced scored two runs in the fifth highlighted by Collins’ big fly.
“I don’t come up thinking home run, home run. I’m thinking base hit and if a home run happens, it happens. I knew I hit it hard. I could feel it.”
A dropped flyball off the bat of Rheanne Lewis plated the second run in the fifth that gave Merced a 3-0 lead. Collins added another RBI on a groundout in the sixth inning.
The Bears can clinch their fifth consecutive CCC championship Friday with a win at Pitman.
Buhach Colony 5, Turlock 1 in Atwater – Jennifer Moreno picked up two of the Thunder’s three hits and drove in a run. Jordan Reyes only gave up three hits as Buhach Colony improved to 2-9 in the CCC.
Pitman 5, Golden Valley 1 in Turlock – Spencer Bronken went 3 for 3 with three RBIs to propel the Pride (17-5, 8-3) to victory. Shyan Crutcher had two hits, including a double for the Cougars (10-11, 3-8).
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.