One up, one down
SACRAMENTO – Darren Chan and his Nevada Union softball team must have left the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Playoffs with a van-load of mixed emotions Saturday.
The first-year Miner skipper had a front-row seat as his squad struck out 24 times in its first-round showdown with Folsom, but still managed to pull off a 4-3 win in 12 innings at the Sacramento Softball Complex.
“We’ve been doing that all season. We fall behind early, then, when things look bleak, somehow find a way to win. This team never gives up,” he said.
He then could only watch as Grace Davis (Modesto) pitcher Katie Holmes no-hit NU in their second-round game later that day. The Metro Conference champion Miners lost 6-0, but qualified for the double-elimination portion of the tourney by virtue of its first-round win over the Delta League No.3 Bulldogs.
NU will square off with Delta League champ Elk Grove 5 p.m. Monday.
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“Right from the very start (of the last game) I could tell we just didn’t have it. And that’s the breaks when you play in a big game like that,” Chan said.
In the opener, the Miners ran into a blue and red buzzsaw in the form of Folsom junior pitcher Chelsea Engle.
Engle, who entered the game with the third most strikeouts in the state (319) according to maxpreps.com, fanned the first 12 batters she faced.
NU didn’t have a runner reach base until the bottom of the fifth when Becky Dowd was walked.
Dowd, the Miner starter who retired nine of the first batters she faced, scored on a Bulldog throwing error to tie the score at 1-1.
The team traded runs in the sixth, but couldn’t get the game-winner over the plate in the seventh to force extra innings.
The score remained the same for the next four innings even as each team was given a runner on second base to start each inning after the 10th.
The Bulldogs broke the tie with run in the top of the 12th on a sacrifice fly to right field, but the lead wouldn’t last.
Engle retired the first two batters she faced in the 12th, but allowed Dowd, who began the inning on second, to advance to third when she walked Sarah Nunnink on a wild pitch.
NU’s Sarah Wixon then notched the biggest hit of her career with a line drive to shallow center field.
Dowd scored easily, then Nunnink, who has stolen second before the previous pitch, motored toward home.
The Bulldog center fielder bobbled the ball and that was all the time Nunnink needed.
She dove head first into home plate as the Miner dugout emptied onto the field.
“This win is huge. It’s our first playoff win and we did it in true NU style,” Chan said.
Kristin Schmidt led the way for NU at the plate.
She went 2-for-4 with a double, single and a RBI.
Kala Olson had NU’s other hit.
Amanda Poteet, who relieved Dowd in the eighth, gave up one run on one hit and struck out one to earn the win.
Dowd allowed two runs on four hits, struck out five and walked three.
In the nightcap, Rachelle Chan got the loss.
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