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Saugus Makes Itself at Home

Girls' softball: Playing on campus for the first time this season, Centurions beat Quartz Hill, 1-0.


SAUGUS — There's no place like home, especially for the Saugus High softball team.

Playing on their home field for the first time this season, the Centurions capitalized on two Quartz Hill mistakes to score a run in the second inning and hung on for a 1-0 nonleague victory Wednesday at Saugus High.

It was the first time in four years Saugus defeated Quartz Hill, which won the last three meetings by 1-0 scores.

Before that, Saugus (8-4) beat the Rebels by one run four years in a row.

"This game is always 1-0 either way," said Coach Ron Hilton of Saugus. "I've come to expect that. I knew it would be low scoring, particularly because our offense has had trouble getting runs.

"But overall, I'm happy with our performance. Considering the fact that we gave up six home runs in our first nine games, a shutout is a huge improvement."

Jennifer McLarty (2-1), a junior right-hander for Saugus, pitched a four-hitter with two walks and two strikeouts.

McLarty was on top of her game, inducing seven pop fly outs and allowing only two Quartz Hill batters to reach second base.

"This game sets the tone for the rest of our season," McLarty said. "I've played them twice before and both times it was close. But we believe if we try our hardest, we can win any game."

Elizabeth Harkins of Saugus led off the second inning with a hard grounder to second base that Nycole Brand bobbled before throwing late to first. Christina Gillman's sacrifice moved Harkins to second.

Harkins, running all the way and sliding under the tag by catcher Olaya Salazar, scored from second when Brand threw wildly to first on a grounder by designated hitter Megan Ivey.

The Rebels (9-5), ranked ninth in the region by The Times, threatened to tie the game in the sixth inning when Jamie Booth and Salazar drew two-out walks.

Sara Moore hit a hard grounder in the direction of shortstop Katie Hoggatt and pinch runner Cheryl Collins ran over Hoggatt as she tried to field the ball. Collins was ruled out for player interference.

McLarty retired the Rebels in order in the seventh. Jennifer Curtier hit a pop up to Hoggatt, Jennifer Province struck out and Amber Hilblom tapped a grounder back to McLarty, who threw to Tiffany Arnett at first base for the final out.

The game was perhaps more important for Saugus, which opens Foothill League play today.

"This is always a fun game for us," co-Coach Coy Ray of Quartz Hill said. "We'd like to beat them but it's not a big deal to lose right now because we still have a week and a half before league starts.

"There's still a lot of time to improve between now and then."

Junior Mandi Ricker (8-3) pitched a two-hitter with five strikeouts and no walks for the defending Golden League champion Rebels, who won the High Desert Classic last weekend.

"Quartz Hill is one of the better teams we've played and they are playing really well right now," Hilton said. "We didn't hit well at all, but we played error-free ball. We've played a ton of close games so far this year and this was just one more."

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