Hoover handles Nitros' rally

SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — Given the shaky outings from his starting pitchers thus far this season, Hoover softball Coach Rich Henning decided to switch it up and give the ball to Kaitlyn Williams, his usual starting shortstop.

Williams, a first team All-Pacific Leaguer, hadn't pitched a game since Little League, but shared Henning's sentiments and had the confidence to face rival Glendale on Thursday afternoon.

"She's a tremendous athlete, had the desire to pitch, and I wanted to shake things up a little bit," said Henning, who received a complete game from Williams in a 4-3 win at Glendale High. "All in all, I'm very pleased with the game she pitched and, of course, the result."

Before hitting the mound, the Tornadoes (3-7, 2-3) sophomore belted a triple that scored Leslie Arreola for the game's first run. Williams would score on another triple from Teresa Martinez off Nitros starting pitcher Casey Ramirez.

With the comfort of a 2-0 lead against a team that has struggled to score all season, Williams looked comfortable and showed no rust on the mound as she pitched a no-hitter into the fourth inning, when Meghan Spencer broke it up by hitting a single to left.

It would be the only hit for the Nitros through the first five innings.

Despite the offensive woes, Glendale's three runs would have kept them in the ballgame had it not been for a mental error on defense in the third inning. After a Ramirez strikeout, Glendale players ran to the dugout thinking it was the third out of the inning. But, given it was only the second out, Hoover's Briana Manzanero ran home from third for the team's fourth run.

Moreover, Hoover's third run came on a wild pitch that allowed Kenya Buckley to score.

Ramirez brushed off the two runs and gave up one hit the rest of the way, allowing the Nitros to remain within striking distance.

Finally, with little time to spare and down four runs, Glendale's bats came alive in the sixth. Janete Avira put the Nitros on the board with a two-run triple that scored Brenna Canalla and Spencer. Later in the inning, Sheila Araji put down a bunt that brought in Rachel Bartanuah to cut the deficit down to 4-3.

"If we can produce like we did in the last couple innings from the first inning then we'll be fine," said Nitros Coach Christine Paknik, whose squad fell to 2-3 in the Pacific League. "In practice, we're driving the ball but for some reason, whatever we did the day before isn't there in the game."

The Nitros had a game-tying opportunity in the seventh with a runner on third base, but Williams held on and perhaps fittingly, caught a popup for the game's final out.

"I think I was good until the last couple innings when the umpire started making calls that went against me," said Williams, who got through the final two innings without giving up the game-tying run despite a runner on third each time.

Williams' counterpart Ramirez struck out 10 batters, giving up just four hits and two walks in her complete-game effort.

"You can't ask for anything more," Paknik said. "We hit for her so she can focus on pitching and she did well."

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