By Kirk Kern Battle Born Media
The White Pine High softball team worked its way all the way up through the losers bracket to face Needles in the finals of the Division III state tournament on Saturday at The Meadows School.
But after working their way back from a 1-0 deficit to take the lead in the top of the sixth inning, the Ladycats’ luck ran out.
The Lady Mustangs came back with a run in the sixth and and a walk-off RBI single in the seventh to win the title. If the Ladycats had won, the two teams would have played each other again. Despite falling to Needles, coach Krystal Smith was proud of her team’s season.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to coach,” Smith said. “They worked hard day in and day out, playing through pain, difficult circumstances and immense pressure. They truly rallied around each other and the leadership of our captains to accomplish playing for a State championship.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Moore faced the heart of the Lady Mustangs’ lineup in Abby Chandler, Demi Limon and Melanie Merchain.
Chandler led off the inning with a single off the fence in left field and Limon hit a sharp grounder down the third base line for a double to put runners on second and third with no outs.
Merchain then hit a line drive to left-center field for a single to win the game.
“Their defense performed better than ours, which was the major difference,” Smith said.
Needles scored a run in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead on back-to-back doubles by Abby Chandler and Demi Limon.
The score remained 1-0 until the top of the fifth when Shania Hall drove home Jaden Earnest with a two-out single to tie the score at 1-1.
In the top of the sixth, Moore led off with a walk (her third of the game). She stole second and advanced to third on a ground out before Jane Murdock lifted a fly ball to shallow centerfield.
Needles’ centerfielder Andrea Merchain charged in to make the catch, but Moore tagged at third and raced home with the go-ahead run.
The Lady Mustangs tied the score with a run in the bottom of the sixth and added another run in the seventh for the victory.
White Pine had only three hits in game. Earnest reached base three times on two walks and a single. Hesse and Hall had the other two hits for the Ladycats.
“We were kept off balance in our hitting attack,” Smith said. “Their pitcher kept the ball low in the zone, creating several ground outs.”
In the opening game of the tournament on Thursday, Needles sent White Pine into the loser’s bracket with an 11-7 victory. The Ladycats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but Needles came back with single runs in the second and third innings to cut the margin to 3-2.
White Pine extended its lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third, but Needles came back with six runs in the top of the fourth and three more in the sixth to put the game away.
Hall hit home run and a double in the opening game for White Pine. Amanda Allred added three hits and two runs scored and Alli Huntington had two hits.
White Pine bounced back on Friday to beat Yerington, 5-2, as Moore and Hesse hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take the lead.
The loss knocked Yerington out of the tournament and put the Ladycats in the losers bracket final against Lincoln County, which had just lost to Needles a game earlier.
Moore struck out 10 batters as the Ladycats ended the Lady Lynx season with a 12-5 victory. White Pine broke the game open with five runs in the third and four more in the third.
Murdock hit a home run for the Ladycats and had two RBI. McKenna Windous went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs while Allred and Huntington added two hits apiece.
“I’m so proud of my team’s fight this weekend,” coach Krystal Smith said. “We played uncharacteristically on Thursday and, with our backs against the wall on Friday, we came out with a rejuvenated passion and resilience. We refused to let our season end early.”
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