SPARKS - It was hard to say whether it was Carson High School or Douglas that won the most tension-packed first-round game at the Northern 4A Zone Softball Tournament on Thursday at Reed High.
Was it the Senators, who went 10 innings with Reno before defeating the Huskies 4-1? Or was it the Tigers, who relied on freshman pitcher Terrah Kizer to pull off the biggest upset of the first round by downing Reed 3-2?
Those two close wins guaranteed both Carson and Douglas another dose of tension today, with both teams advancing into the winners' semifinals of the tourney. Carson will play Wooster - the No. 1 seed in the tournament - at noon; Douglas plays No. 2 Galena, also at noon. Wooster beat Fallon 10-0 and Galena defeated McQueen 6-0 to advance to the semis.
Although Reno entered Thursday's game seeded slightly higher than Carson (No. 4 vs. No. 5), it was the Senators who had the Huskies on the ropes for much of the afternoon before finally prevailing with a three-run 10th inning. The key for Carson was the dominating pitching performance of senior Nicole Freeman, who struck out 16 Husky batters and didn't give up an earned run.
"It was a tremendous outing for Nicole, who was basically in control the entire game," said Carson coach John Sullivan. "Four of the seven hits she gave up were to two batters; no other players in the Reno lineup were getting hits."
Freeman came within a few inches of giving Carson a lead in the fourth when she hit a ball deep into the outfield and tried to score an inside-the-park home run. It took a perfect relay throw from the Huskies to beat Freeman to the plate.
Carson did take a 1-0 lead in the sixth. Brandi Cotroneo singled and reached second on a passed ball. After Freeman walked, Chrissy Joseph recorded an RBI single.
But that lead was short-lived, as Reno scored an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth. With two out, the Senators committed errors on back-to-back plays. Ironically, those were Carson's only two errors of the game.
Carson finally broke through against Reno pitcher Jackie Rinehart in the 10th, thanks in part to a clutch pinch-hit by Laura Wulff. After Jina Padilla had singled and was sacrificed to second, Cotroneo hit an infield single. With two runners on, Wulff, a reserve catcher, delivered a double which scored Padilla.
Cotroneo later scored on a sacrifice fly by Kellie Karasek and Joseph followed with a single that scored Tricia Hudgins, who was pinch-running for Wulff.
Sullivan said the Senator players know Wooster is beatable, even though the Colts recently concluded the regular season 24-0 in zone play.
"I think we're anxious to play Wooster - you're gonna have to play them at some point," Sullivan said. "We're off to a good start in the tournament and have momentum. As long as we stay relaxed and focused, no one is going to blow the ball past us."
Douglas' win was just as dramatic as Carson's and could have easily gone into extra innings. But with just a one-run lead and two Reed runners on base in the bottom of the seventh, Kizer bore down and induced two ground ball outs to give the No. 6-seeded Tigers the biggest upset of the day.
"In the last inning there was a lot of tension - this was the first time I had pitched against Reed this season because I was out the last time we played them," said Kizer, who recorded eight strikeouts during the game. "It was up in the air - I didn't know what was going to happen."
Kizer also had two RBIs for the Tigers. Hillary Moreira had the other RBI for Douglas.
"That was something," said an excited Tiger coach Ken Carr. "The kids played heads-up ball and were focused and I'm just so proud of them.
"Terrah's a tough kid with a big heart."
Carr said he was going to enjoy the win over the Raiders before he would start worrying about today's game with Galena. Douglas split its two games with the Grizzlies this season.
"I'm going to let this one soak in for a little while," said Carr. "(Galena) is a solid club that is playing exceptionally well."
Carson catcher Kellie Karasek has signed a letter-of-intent to play soccer and softball at Spokane Falls (Wash.) Junior College. Her soccer coach will be former Senator girls' coach Krisha Kerr A coach from Eastern Michigan University was scouting Freeman on Thursday Carson's overall record is now 29-9 this season.