VAN NUYS — Seconds after watching his team escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning, Doug Nicol vacated the dugout and prepared to occupy the third-base box for the 10th inning and possibly longer.
Nicol, who served as the head coach of the East All-Star Team in the seventh annual San Fernando Valley All-Star Softball Classic on Wednesday afternoon, took several strides onto the field before being met by the three-member umpiring crew, which told him the game was over. Nicol was taken aback and briefly confused.
"I thought we were going to still be playing, but the umpires said we were only going to play nine innings," said Nicol, who is the Burroughs High coach, after his East team battled to a 3-3 tie with the West All-Star team at Birmingham High. "In the end, both teams competed hard and it's the right thing to do.
"It was a great experience to coach in a game like this with so many excellent players."
The game, designed for seniors from the San Fernando, Conejo, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, featured several area players. They included Allison Lacey of Crescenta Valley, Haley Schulman, Shannon Trujillo and Caitlin Loera of Burroughs and Nalani Hernandez of Burbank.
All five competed with Schulman, a pitcher, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth.
The East scored two runs in the first against West starting pitcher Nancy Bowling of Royal. The East made it 1-0 on a sacrifice fly by West Ranch's Janelle Lindvall that scored Jennie McNeill of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Hart's Tracy Chandless, who earlier won the home run derby, hit a solo home run off the left-field foul pole to extend the East's advantage to 2-0.
Schulman, who earned a spot on the All-CIF Southern Section Division III first team, began the fifth by giving up a single to Moorpark's Cheyenne Sandoval. The right-hander then struck out Karyn Wright of El Camino Real and Chaminade's Taylor Stewart before walking Whitney West of El Camino Real to put runners on first and second. Simi Valley's Alli Cook then had a bunt single to load the bases before Schulman got Nicole Cheek of Simi Valley on a popout to shortstop to end the threat.
"I was going up against a lot of players I didn't really know," said Schulman, who also played right field in the eighth after pitching a scoreless sixth. "I had to pitch like I knew how to and throw whatever the catcher wanted and hope to hit the spot."
Nicol said that juncture proved to be pivotal.
"Haley has done everything for us," said Nicol, who guided Burroughs to the league championship. "She never gets flustered.
"With Haley, she knows how to get out of tough spots."
Schulman finished with four strikeouts in a 42-pitch performance.
The East extended its lead to 3-0 in the sixth on a run-scoring single by Highland's Emily Sanchez off Simi Valley reliever Lauren Soles that scored Lindvall.
The West scored three runs in the seventh against East reliever Lauren Li of Harvard-Westlake. Royal's Brynn Lesovsky led off with a home run to left to trim the deficit to 3-1. A single to right by Oaks Christian's Hanah Roberg scored Thousand Oaks' Kanani Datan to make it 3-2. Moorpark's Allie Mouwen then knotted the game at 3 with a double that scored West.
"There are too many good players here who can hit and sooner or later they are going to get their bat on the ball," Nicol said. "The pitchers aren't in rhythm because they aren't used to going one or two innings and rhythm is what pitching is all about, so you expect some runs."
Both squads had an opportunity to win it in the ninth.
For the East, Loera walked with one out against Stewart and moved to second on a wild pitch. Stewart then struck out Lacey looking for the second out. McNeill reached on an infield single to first. Nicol sent Loera home, but she was caught in a rundown before finally being tagged out at third.
The West loaded the bases with two outs against Canyon Country Canyon's Hayley Bottino. Royal's Katelyn Tollefson stepped in and worked the count to 3-1 before Bottino induced a forceout at second.
Lacey played right field in the third and fourth, second base in the fifth and sixth and catcher in the ninth. The former All-Area pick recorded an assist to end the sixth, fielding the ball at second and making a flip to sit down a quick runner.
"It was two teams with stacked rosters and it's nice when you have players like Hayley on your side," said Lacey, who went hitless in a pair of plate appearances."I was able to get to that ball and make a nice flip to first."
Loera played second in the second and center field in the fifth and sixth. She struck out in the fifth.
Trujillo, a reigning All-Area first-team selection, played first base in the second before moving to catcher in the fifth and sixth. In two at-bats, Trujillo grounded out and struck out.
Hernandez went hitless in a pair of at-bats. She played center field in the third and fourth and second base in the seventh and eighth.