Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
After one of the worst showings of the season last Friday left them on the verge of elimination, the Fernley High School softball team responded with one of its best days of the year Saturday.
The reward is a trip to the 3A State Tournament this week in Las Vegas.
The Vaqueros bounced back from a 15-0 loss to Fallon in the 3A Northern League Tournament Friday afternoon to beat South Tahoe 8-2 Saturday morning to clinch a berth in the state tournament, then lost a rematch with Fallon in a nailbiter, 3-2, in the regional championship game.
“I was pleased with the whole day,” coach Diane Chapin said. “A lot of them being young, and a couple new ones on the team, they were excited for the opportunity to go to State.”
The Vaqueros would have needed to beat Fallon twice Saturday to win the regional title, but when Reese Jones hit a home run in the top of the fourth inning to give Fernley a 2-1 lead, it looked like they might have the chance.
But Fallon’s Kayla Buckmaster and Faith Cornmesser hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Vaqueros couldn’t answer in the top of the seventh.
“We actually hit pretty well, my pitcher threw good, and defensively, if we did at all, we only made one mistake,” Chapin said.
Although it was their fifth loss to the Greenwave this season, Chapin said the championship game loss was a confidence builder for the Vaqueros.
“Three of the meetings were lopsided, but two were real good games,” Chapin said. “They know they beat us five times, but we still have a chance and can beat them.”
The Vaqueros reached the championship game, and the State Tournament, by beating South Tahoe 8-2 earlier Saturday.
“After Friday’ showing was bad, we tried to put it behind us,” Chapin said. “We wanted the opportunity to come out and play again.”
South Tahoe had upset No. 2 seeded Lowry, 3-2 in 9 innings, in an elimination game Friday afternoon.
The Vikings then jumped on top of the Vaqueros with a solo home run in the top of the first inning, and led 2-1 after the teams traded runs in the bottom of the second and top of the third.
But Fernley took the lead for good with four runs in the bottom of the third inning.
“We started putting the ball in play and running, and things started happening together,” Chapin said.
McKenna Montgomery, who wound up pitching both games Saturday, made the lead stand up with no further damage, finishing with eight strikeouts and one walk, while allowing only three hits.
The Vaqueros will be appearing in their sixth consecutive State tournament, but are seeking their first state title since 2013.
Chapin said the regional tournament will prove to be valuable experience for the team’s younger players who haven’t been to State, and another step in their development.
“Having a challenging regional tournament will help, having a good, competitive game where we had to fight every pitch,” Chapin said. “I think the girls know we do have to play our best, limit mistakes and score some runs to be successful.”
Photos by Adam Robertson, Lahontan Valley News