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Foothill League softball: In the clutch

Bickford’s sixth-inning double is the difference in Cents’ win

Posted: April 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Saugus catcher Karlee Bickford hits a three-RBI double in the sixth inning against Valencia at Valencia High on Tuesday. The Centurions defeated the Vikings 3-1.

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Saugus catcher Karlee Bickford had already battled through seven pitches in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out in a scoreless tie against perennial power Valencia.

Before the eighth pitch, Valencia catcher Karlie Habitz and pitcher Carly Mortensen met at the mound, and the result was the last thing Bickford expected — a change-up.

But she doubled deep to left field to score three runs and propel the Centurions to a 3-1 victory on Tuesday afternoon.
“I was surprised,” Bickford said. “It was one pitch, one swing. I was very focused on doing it for my team.”

The game was a matchup of a potent Saugus offense, which had scored 24 runs in its first two league games, and Valencia’s ace Mortensen, who had allowed just three runs on 12 hits for the Vikings (15-7 overall, 2-1 Foothill League) in league play.

But that storyline was quickly turned on its head, as Saugus’ Alanna Layton not only matched Mortensen pitch-for-pitch, but outdueled the pitcher widely regarded as the league’s best.

Layton took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, and finished the game pitching seven innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out six.

“Facing better pitchers, it’s definitely a bigger thing,” Layton said. “Beating Carly is definitely a really big win.”

Layton was in control from the start, going unscathed through the line up the first time around. Outside of a solo home run by Valencia’s Wendy Cardinali in the sixth, Layton didn’t allow a runner past second base.

Mortensen was only slightly less effective, though, allowing just two hits entering the sixth inning.

She pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out 10 batters in the loss.

Saugus’ Rachel Shotzbarger opened up the sixth with a single to left, and after a walk, Layton loaded the bases with an infield single to set up Bickford’s double.

“Bickford really took control of that at-bat,” said Saugus head coach Julie Watson. “She stepped in there and was ready to go.”

Cardinali responded in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run on the first pitch to pull Valencia within 3-1, but Layton struck out Sarah Solano to end the inning with two runners on base.

“Carly can’t be the entire show,” said Valencia head coach Donna Lee. “It’s tough when you don’t give any pitcher a couple runs. And we didn’t give her any breathing room.”

Layton, though, got the breathing room she needed from Bickford, and shut down Valencia to leave the Centurions (14-3, 3-0) as the last undefeated team in league play.

“Carly threw a good game, she got out of some jams,” Watson said. “But Alanna — we had more opportunities on offense, and that was because of Alanna.”

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