Regardless of it being "only" an exhibition game, Tuesday night's Kern County High School Senior Softball Showcase still brought out the competitive fire in Ashlee Rex and Cassie Handel.
Playing with an intensity usually reserved for games that count, the duo helped the Red Team twice rally from a three-run deficits to beat the Blue Team 9-6 at the Dean and Adah Gay Sports Complex at Bakersfield College.
Handel, representing Garces High, had two hits and scored two runs and Rex (Stockdale) rebounded from a slow start in the circle to earn the victory with a complete-game seven-hitter.
"We wanted to win really, really bad, so we really got into it," Handel said. "It was really fun."
Baylee Boren (Stockdale) and Vanessa Morales (Bakersfield High) had two singles each for the Blue Team, which scored five runs in the fifth inning to overcome a 6-4 deficit.
"We have a lot of rivals on the other team so we really wanted to win this game," Rex said. "... All of my friends are on the this (the Red) team, so it was against our enemies."
A two-run home run by Frontier's Karissa Nickerson in the first inning helped the Blue Team to a 3-0 lead.
Nickerson finished with three RBIs. Despite being on the losing side, she earned MVP honors.
"It was a tough game," Nickerson said. "... We were facing one of the best pitchers in all of Kern County, so at least we went out there, put up runs and made it a competitive game. It wasn't a blowout."
Lauren Cowden of Centennial pitched all six innings for the Blue, allowing seven earned runs on eight hits, with three walks, one strikeout and one hit batter.
Only three of the six runs scored off Rex were earned as the Red committed three errors. After giving up three runs in the first and another three in the third, Rex retired 14 of the final 15 batters she faced.
"In the beginning I was little bit shaky, but then I started throwing a little bit better, hitting my spots a little bit more," Rex said.
Trailing 6-3, the Red scored a run in the bottom of the fourth and then exploded for five more an inning later to take control.
Boren, Handel and Morales got things going with three straight singles to begin the inning. Then, after Garces' Jillian Froelich tied it with a groundout to shortstop, North's Monique Dyer drilled a two-run triple into the right-center field gap.
Down 3-0 after half an inning, the Red tied it in the bottom of the first. Following a lead-off walk by Garces' Maggie Arreola, Boren singled, Handel was hit by a pitch, and Morales singled to cut the Red deficit to 3-2 before Froelich tied it with an RBI fielder's choice.
"We wanted it pretty bad," Red Team coach Amanda Hockett (Stockdale) said. "The seniors wanted to go out with a win for their last game in Kern County as high school players, and they all fought hard."
Handel reached base three out of four times and was named the Red Team's MVP.
Alex Avila of North, who went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, was chosen as the Blue Team's MVP.
"It is for fun, but the good thing about it is a lot of kids stood out," Blue coach Henry Arias (Liberty) said. "They made some great plays. Obviously (Nickerson's) big home run in the first inning. That's probably one of the farthest balls I've ever seen hit. ... It was a showcase for these girls, and they were able to showcase their talents."