Bart McAfee has never been shy about playing freshmen.
The Merced High softball coach has had at least one freshman in his lineup the last eight years.
“If they’re good enough to play, they’re coming,” McAfee said.
Freshmen Madilyn Nickles and Rheanne Lewis have proven they’re good enough and both played a key role in the Bears’ 10-1 win over Pitman on Tuesday afternoon.
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All Nickles did was go 3 for 4 with a home run and drive in six runs to go along with a complete game in the circle.
Lewis set the table at the top of the order, going 3 for 3 with three runs scored.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Nickles said. “The girls haven’t picked on us or anything. It’s cool to share the experience with another freshman.”
The two newcomers added to an already strong lineup that included reigning Central California Conference MVP Chelsea Evans and returning all-conference players like Serina Castillo and Ruby Quiralte.
The Bears (18-5 overall, 10-1 CCC) pounded out 13 hits and broke the game open with a five-run third inning against Pitman starter Alexis Mettler.
Nickles hit a two-run homer during the third and added a two-run double in the fourth. In the last two games, Nickles is 6 for 8 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
“I guess that’s me coming out of a slump,” she said. “In the beginning of the season I may have had some jitters. I’ve been working a lot after practice, correcting my form. I’ve been trying to keep my hands inside the ball.”
Buhach Colony 3, Golden Valley 2
Kerstin Smith collected three hits to lead the Thunder’s 10-hit attack and Buhach Colony moved one game closer to securing a playoff spot.
Buhach Colony (8-3 CCC) has a three-game lead on Pitman for a playoff spot with four games left.
Atwater 7, Turlock 1
TURLOCK — Grace Santistevan pitched a complete game and drove in four runs for the Falcons (8-3 CCC).
Merced’s Jordan Cabrera and Golden Valley’s Cesar Nava will face each other in the finals of the CCC singles championship on Thursday.
Cabrera and Nava went 3-0 on Tuesday to reach the finals.
The championship will be held at Merced High at 11 a.m.