ATWATER -- Put the ball in play because you never know what will happen.
That seemed to be the theme for the Atwater softball team on Friday.
Atwater hitters hit three straight fly balls in the first inning and Merced dropped all of them.
The three errors led to two runs as Atwater cruised to a 3-1 win to remain unbeaten in the Central California Conference at 5-0.
"Put it in play and good things happen," Atwater coach Joe Leonardo said. "They gave us a couple early and that helped out."
It was Merced (2-3 CCC) that seemed to seize the early momentum.
Leslie Grissom hit a two-out single and Erika Marmolejo followed with an RBI double to give Merced the early 1-0 lead.
However, when the three fly balls bounced in and out of his players' gloves, it was Merced coach Bart McAfee pacing back and forth in the dugout.
"We just didn't make the plays," McAfee said. "We hit today and I'm happy with that.
"But you saw it, we just handed it to them. We should have been ahead 1-0.
"It changes the whole game. Maybe we bunt more."
Daniella Vineyard settled down after the first inning and shut Merced down the rest of the way.
Merced had at least one baserunner in every inning.
However, Vineyard didn't allow back-to-back hits again until the seventh inning.
She scattered eight hits and struck out five batters.
It was a big game that sets up an even bigger game on Wednesday against Buhach Colony.
"I had more jitters today," Atwater shortstop Stefanie De La Cruz said.
"I don't know why. Merced is one of our rivals. They're a good team."
Atwater will play Buhach Colony Wednesday at BC (5-0 CCC) with first place in the conference on the line.
"It's really going to be big, especially since we know a lot of the girls on their team," De La Cruz said.
"They're our friends, but we still want to beat them."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MERCED 100 000 0 -- 1 8 3
ATWATER 200 100 X -- 3 4 0
Taylor Gross and Kandice Mathis; Daniella Vineyard and Alex Barenchi. WP -- Vineyard. LP -- Gross.
MERCED -- Erika Marmolejo 2-3 (2B, RBI), Mathis 2-3.
ATWATER -- Stefanie De La Cruz (2B, 2 Runs).
Records: Merced 2-3 CCC; Atwater 5-0, 11-7-1 overall.