Nitros take first tilt with Tornadoes

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — In turning in one of her finer performances of the season Thursday afternoon, Glendale High starting pitcher Meghan Spencer proved instrumental in helping the Nitros prevail in the first of two regular-season meetings against cross-town rival Hoover.

Not only did the junior pitch a complete game with five strikeouts and no walks, but she also excelled at the plate, as she went three for four with two doubles and two runs batted in.

Naturally, Spencer had support in the lineup and out on the field as the Nitros tallied 14 hits on offense and committed one error on defense in a convincing 6-3 win against the host Tornadoes.

"Coming into the game, we felt really good and stayed positive," Spencer said. "We were comfortable that we would get the win. I had a rough game last game, so I was happy to get the start."

The Tornadoes (6-7, 2-4 in league) struck first, though, as they jumped on their opposing pitcher early, scoring two runs in the first inning on three hits. With runners on first and second, Alissa Barcena's two-out single scored Kaitlyn Williams and Lilly Rivera for the early 2-0 lead.

Earlier, in the top of the first, the Nitros (2-4 in league) wasted no time in putting bats on balls themselves, as they loaded up the bases, but ultimately couldn't come away with any runs.

"We always tell our 1-6 [batters] to hit it hard, and eventually it's going to fall," Nitros Coach Christine Paknik said. "In the first inning, the balls were hit to fielders, but after a couple times through the lineup, we were able to string together some hits.

"It's a mental and contagious thing — a dynamic of the game."

The top six batters in the Nitros lineup put pressure on Tornadoes starting pitcher Bre Aguilera and the defense again in the third inning, but this time would come away with runs. Rachel Bartamian led off the inning with a single and was moved over by Brenna Cancilla's sacrifice bunt. Spencer doubled home Bartamian, and advanced to third on a grounder. Janette Avina's infield single scored Spencer for the game-tying run.

Glendale's 7-8-9 hitters would be the ones to take the lead from the Tornadoes in the fourth inning. Mariam Danial and Diana Lopez scored on a two-run single by Iliana Rodriguez to give the Nitros a 4-2 advantage. Two batters later, Spencer's infield single scored Rodriguez.

Rodriguez would pick up her third RBI in the fifth inning when her single plated Danial for Glendale's final run of the game.

The Tornadoes scored in the bottom half of the fifth to cut their deficit down to 6-3 on the lone Nitros error of the contest, but Glendale's defense, as well as Spencer, ended the comeback there.

"Glendale didn't make any mistakes," said Hoover Coach Rich Henning, who had multi-hit games from Kenya Buckley, Bri Manzanero and Rivera. "They played a solid game. They were terrific."

Neither the Nitros nor the Tornadoes would be granted an automatic berth into the playoffs today, as they are both outside of the top four seeds in the Pacific League. No matter the circumstances, however, the stakes are always high when they meet.

"When it comes to Glendale and Hoover, you can put 18 fielders out there with two left feet and two left thumbs and it's still going to be a good game," Henning said.

Said Paknik: "It's always a fun rivalry. You walk in telling them they're going to win and I'm sure their coach did the same."

The Tornadoes will next compete in the Whittier Tournament, while the Nitros travel to Pasadena for a league contest.

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