LYNWOOD — Providence High softball Coach Joel Curtis told his players they would have to cut down on their mistakes if they were to win their CIF Southern Section Division VII first-round game Thursday against host Firebaugh.
"I pretty much told them before the game that we were going to have to play mistake-free ball if we were going to win," Curtis said.
The Pioneers didn't do that.
Mistakes led to early runs for the Falcons and that advantage grew through the latter innings, ultimately leading to a 12-1 loss on the road for Providence.
The game was called in the fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule. Curtis said the mercy rule can be implemented in the playoffs if both teams' coaches agree to it prior to the game.
Curtis went with a young lineup against Firebaugh (17-4), which was coming off its third straight Harbor League championship. Of the 10 Providence starters, seven were either sophomores or freshmen.
One of the upperclassmen was junior pitcher Sierra Nelson, who was in the circle despite suffering a torn meniscus in her right knee earlier in the season.
"We are a very young team and I think there was definitely some nerves, this being a playoff game," Nelson said. "We knew that we were a younger team facing a team with a lot more seniors than we have. But our young players really battled."
Said Curtis of Nelson: "I give her a lot of credit for battling and still being out there even though she had the injury. That just says a lot about her. She was hitting her spots today and it really wasn't her fault."
The Pioneers (8-13), who placed third in the Liberty League, advanced to the first-round game with a 22-18 wild-card victory Tuesday at Coastal Christian.
It looked as if Providence was able to carry over some of that success in the first inning on Thursday against the Falcons, pushing across one run to take an early lead.
The inning began when Estelle Glorioso led off with a walk. She then stole second, but the throw by the Firebaugh catcher sailed into center field allowing Glorioso to motor home. The Pioneers had a chance to add to their lead when Phylizia Carrillo singled to center and stole second with one out. However, she was thrown out at third on a steal attempt.
Providence was able to account for just one hit after the first.
"We were being aggressive and I'm happy with that," Curtis said. "But we did make too many mistakes and that cost us. I just think they were pushing it and trying a little too hard.
"I'm not so much worried about the 12 runs that they got, I'm more concerned about the runs we couldn't get."
Those mistakes helped the Falcons score their first four runs of the game — all unearned.
In the second inning, Carolina Viramontes reached on an error, stole second and scored on a throwing error by the Pioneers' catcher. Erica Bailey reached base on a fielder's choice and eventually scored on a passed ball.
With a 2-0 lead, Firebaugh added two more in the third when a fly ball was dropped in left field.
The Falcons tacked on five more runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to cap the scoring.
Glorioso had two walks and Carrillo was two for three.
"Their pitcher really didn't throw all that hard, we just didn't hit her," Curtis said. "When players are pressing, as much as you try to tell them to relax, sometimes they just can't."