The Diablo Valley softball team broke open a close game with four runs in the sixth inning, highlighted by Cynthia Duenas' three-run home run, and took a 6-1 win over Merced in the CCCAA regional playoffs on Saturday.
The teams will meet again at noon on Sunday in the second game of the best of three series. A third game will follow at 2 p.m., if necessary,
Nicole Nordahl fired a four-hitter with six strikeouts and two walks, and pinch-hitter Julia Pelletier drove in what proved to be the winning run with a clutch two-out, two-run single in the fourth.
Kaitlin Van Motman also had an RBI single in the climactic sixth.
Overall, the Vikings looked refreshed and recharged in their first action since a 9-1 loss to Cosumnes River on April 26 to complete the Big 8 season. 
They pitched well, played excellent defense and made every inning a high-stress inning for Merced starter Brianna Lopez.
"It was good," Pelletier said of the 'refreshed factor'. "It was tough because our last week of softball I think we had five games, because it was raining. A lot of us were really burned out. It was nice to rejuvenate and get a couple days off."
Nordahl shackled the Merced offense with a lot of riseballs, and had a curveball that broke upward as well.
"She was pretty much on today. It was a good day," DVC coach Dennis Luquet said of his All-State pitcher.
Pelletier, a Northgate High graduate, said she felt a "little shaky" going up as a pinch-hitter -- a new role for her. But she delivered nonetheless.
"My team calls me the 'clutch hitter,' so I had a little confidence," she said. "I knew right away when she threw that first pitch that she wasn't going to throw me high or up in side. She was just gonna throw strikes. She thought I was a 'pinch-hitter,' so right when I saw it I knew I would take it somewhere."
Duenas' massive home run, her seventh of the season, added an exclamation point to the performance.
"It was good. We needed that," Pelletier said. "She's definitely one of our biggest hitters. It takes awhile for us to get going, but once we start we clearly finish."