SPARKS - Both the Carson and Douglas high schools softball teams' games concluded with startling results on Friday in the Northern 4A Zone Softball Tournament at Reed High.
Douglas shocked both Reno (3-2) and Reed (3-1) with late runs in the seventh to pull out wins in two of the teams' three games, becoming the highest seed in the tournament (No. 6) to earn a berth in the NIAA/U.S. Bank State Championships, set for next week in Las Vegas.
The Tigers can finish no worse than third in the tournament and can move into second with a win over Galena today at 10 a.m. at Reed High. If Douglas can defeat the Grizzlies this morning, the Tigers can claim the Northern 4A Zone championship with two wins against Wooster at noon and 2 p.m.
Carson, which had started the tournament well with a 4-1 win over Reno on Thursday, lost consecutive games to Wooster (5-1) and Reed (5-0) to conclude its season with a 29-11 record, but one win away from a state qualifying position.
The talk of the zone tournament centered on the Tigers on Friday, who came back from a 1-0 deficit in the top of the seventh against Reno to extend their season. Douglas then came back and rallied once again against Reed, scoring twice in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie.
Outfielder Jen McCrosky had the key hit in the Tigers' win against the Huskies. She had the two-RBI triple in the seventh that gave Douglas a 2-1 lead.
"We knew we were going to state right there," said Jeanette Holt, who added the third RBI of the inning following McCrosky.
McCrosky said she tried to forget that the Tigers' hopes of reaching state were fading when she came to bat.
"I was trying to hold back the pressure I was feeling," said McCrosky, the Tigers' No. 8 batter in the lineup. "I just put everything out of my mind, relaxed and hit the ball."
Even without No. 1 starter Tarrah Kizer on the mound, Douglas played its best ball of the day against Reed in the game which determined the No. 3 seed to state. Looking calm and collected throughout the game, Douglas broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh on an RBI by Holt. Jody Gonzales picked up the win for the Tigers against the Raiders; Kizer had picked up the victory against Reno.
"In the last game, we relaxed and had fun because we knew we were in state already," McCrosky said. "We wanted to beat Reed; the win was something that just came to us."
The only thing that went against Douglas was its winners' semifinal loss to Galena 6-1 to open the day. The two teams rematch today.
"We going for it - we can beat Galena, I know we can," McCrosky said.
Like Douglas, Carson opened the day with a loss in the winners' semifinal. Unlike the Tigers, however, the Senators would never get on track during the day. Carson's offense could only muster one run and four hits during the course of its two games.
"We faced great pitching and couldn't hit," said Carson coach John Sullivan. "We seemed to hit the ball right at the defense all day, and then we put pressure on ourselves to get back into the game.
"We started to press, looking for the home run and base hits."
The losses left the Carson coaching staff scratching their heads.
"We thought we had a pretty good game plan entering the tournament, but to end up losing like we did, we have to review," Sullivan said.
After striking out 16 Husky batters on Thursday, Nicole Freeman was the losing pitcher in both of Carson's games Friday. She did not receive much support from her teammates, however; Chrissy Joseph had the only RBI of the day for the Senators, and the Carson defense committed three errors to allow Wooster three unearned runs in the day's opener.
The games marked the end of the high school careers of Carson seniors Vicki Parsons, Freeman, Kellie Karasek, Melissa Stone, Joseph, Jina Padilla, Brandi Cotroneo and Kendra Carlsen.
While Douglas coach Ken Carr was ecstatic over the fact the Tigers had qualified for state, he said Douglas can't let up now.
"We've got some work to do yet," said the first-year coach. "We want to go into state with the highest seed that we can get.
"A zone championship sure would be sweet."