Smoke gives Fast Pitch in the Pines champion all it can handle |

Smoke gives Fast Pitch in the Pines champion all it can handle

Steve Yingling

It took the No. 1 team to bring out the best in the Tahoe Smoke in the fifth annual Fast Pitch in the Pines softball tournament last weekend in South Lake Tahoe.

The Smoke led eventual champion Santa Rosa Rugrats in consecutive games before losing both contests, 4-3 and 7-1.

On Saturday, the Smoke led 3-1 going into the fourth inning but Santa Rosa rallied for the 4-3 win. In Sunday’s elimination round, Anna Kingman’s homer gave the Smoke a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

But Santa Rosa used a two-run error to score three times in the fourth inning and added four insurance runs in the final frame for the 7-1 victory.

“Tahoe teams always play better on Sunday,” said Smoke coach Rich Barna. “I don’t know why … it’s a desperation thing.”

The Smoke’s Mollie Novasel and Kelly Bartlett kept opposing teams off balance with their solid pitching.

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Before giving Santa Rosa trouble, the Smoke lost games to the Sparks Crusaders and Marin County Blue Angels. Santa Rosa defeated the Marin County Angels 7-4 in the championship game.

Meanwhile, the Tahoe Fire opened with a 15-6 setback to the Rail City Smoke on Friday.

Following two additional defeats on Saturday, the Fire came to life on Sunday against the Sacramento Velocity. The Fire took a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning before the Velocity rallied for a 6-4 elimination victory. Kelly Barkley pitched well for the Fire during the tournament, Barna said.

The Roseville Rockets captured the 14-and-under title with a 9-1 triumph over the Rail City Smoke in six innings.

The tournament marked the end of the summer club softball season for the Smoke and Fire, but Barna is anxious for the prep softball season to start next year.

“Some of the girls on the Smoke and Fire are going to contribute on the varsity this year,” said Barna, who also is the South Tahoe High varsity softball coach. “Some of the girls who are coming up are athletes and fast learners. These girls have already learned more about softball pre-high school than we normally get, so there can’t be anything but improvement.”