After Fountain Valley High School celebrated its 1-0, eight-inning Sunset League victory over Marina, Jodi Bixler walked to home plate.
She wanted to make sure one special red aluminum bat got back to Fountain Valley's dugout safely.
It was the bat the sophomore used to hit the run-scoring double to left-center field in the bottom of the eighth and give seventh-ranked Fountain Valley (16-4, 4-0 in league play) the victory over Marina (17-5, 3-1), the third-ranked team in this week's Orange County Softball Coaches' Poll.
After Shannon Dolan's two-out single, Bixler made solid contact with Willa Parchen's first pitch.
"I just had this feeling," Bixler said. "I knew it was going to be my pitch. It was right there. I said, 'If Shannon gets on, I'm hitting her in.'
"I wasn't even going to try to go to third. I was just going to stay at second and hope Shannon scored."
This Fountain Valley team has more home runs than any previous Baron team this early in the season, Coach Cary Baker said. So Marina's outfielders were deep when Bixler stepped to the plate.
"Their outfielders were out so far they needed tickets to get back in," Baker said. "(Bixler) just put it in the right spot. She has got power. She is really a coming player for us."
But she almost didn't get the chance to swing away. Before the game-winner, Baker was about to tell Bixler to try to hit the ball on the ground.
Before Fountain Valley's back-to-back hits in the eighth inning, Parchen (9-3) had given up only one hit, a single to Rice in the fourth. Parchen ended with a three-hitter, seven strikeouts and three walks.
Rae Rice (12-0) pitched her 11th shutout. She had nine strikeouts and one walk in what Baker called "her best game of the year."
Rice gave up a single in the seventh and managed to get out of a three-hit eighth inning without giving up a run.
Marina's Julie Luft led off with a single. Mindy Burgess bunted and Baron catcher Dolan waited for it to spin foul, but it died fair for a single.
Two outs later, Robyn Yorke singled to load the bases, bringing up .320 hitter Julie Muchet. Rice struck her out to end the threat.
Marina Coach Susie Calderon wasn't disappointed with her team's play. She said Fountain Valley executed better, especially on offense.
"We played good defense," Calderon said. "Our bats were quiet, but Rae's an excellent pitcher. Willa pitched a great ballgame. She got herself out of a couple of jams. Unfortunately, that girl got ahold of it.
"(Besides), they'll come to our place. Like I said in the beginning, nobody is going to go through the Sunset League undefeated."
In another Sunset League game:
Ocean View 4, Edison 0--Winning pitcher Jennifer Kimble (14-7) had two RBIs and Jena Sansone doubled and scored twice to lead host Ocean View (14-7, 2-2).