By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer
It wasn’t easy, but the White Pine High softball team took the Division III Northern Region championship last weekend after playing five games in two days. The team will now enter the state tournament as the No. 1 seed from the north.
“I’m so happy for these girls,” coach Krystal Smith said. “They’ve worked so hard to be able to play and win at home and beat rival teams. They’ve put in the time and hard work. The girls constantly support each other and truly love their team, and due to that and their hard work they’re division champs, which is well earned. Nothing was given to them; they’ve had to work since the beginning of the season and it’s paid off.”
The second-seeded Ladycats’ path to the division championship was far from easy.
White Pine opened the tournament Friday by playing Pershing County, a team it had beaten 6-1 earlier in the season. Despite their previous win, the Ladycats found themselves trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh. But with two outs and down to their last strike, White Pine tied the game at 5 and went on to win 6-5 in nine innings.
“That first game [was very important] because we built upon that with what we were able to do against Yerington on Saturday,” Smith said.
A 10-0 loss to Yerington later Friday meant White Pine had a rematch with Pershing County in its first game on Saturday. The Ladycats won easily 14-4, setting up a rematch with Yerington with the division title at stake.
Yerington has been a thorn in White Pine’s side in previous seasons, beating the Ladycats for the division championship last season and defeating them in the state title game two seasons ago.
This year, White Pine was able to exact a little bit of revenge, but to win the division they would have to beat Yerington twice.
White Pine led in the first game, 2-1, in the bottom of the seventh inning with runners at second and third, Ladycats pitcher Bailey Moore recorded a strikeout to end the game, forcing the teams into a decisive third game.
The second game saw White Pine jump out to a 3-0 lead, but five unanswered runs gave Yerington a 5-3 lead. But the Ladycats came back with eight runs, including a six-run sixth inning, for an 11-5 victory, a division championship and the top seed from the north at state.
“It’s been two years in the making that the White Pine/Yerington rivalry has existed in softball,” Smith said. “We’ve come close a couple of times and it was really about just getting over that hump. We’ve been a young team and these kids who are young have seen the losses against Yerington. To be a part of a Yerington victory was priceless.”
White Pine will face Needles for the first time this season in the first round on Thursday. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Lincoln County vs. Yerington game, while the unsuccessful teams will meet in the losers’ bracket.
“We haven’t seen them and haven’t played them,” Smith said. “But they played Lincoln County four times and split, so I think they’re comparable to Lincoln County. We know they have two quality pitchers with good change ups, so we have to make sure we’re fundamentally sound at the plate.”
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