Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Fresh off a three-game sweep of Elko last weekend, the Fernley High School softball team will face the Indians again to open the 3A North Region softball tournament Thursday morning at Wooster High School.
The Vaqueros clinched the No. 4 seed for the tournament by winning that series against Elko last weekend, relegating Elko to the No. 5 seed. The sweep included two one-run wins in both games of Saturday’s doubleheaders, 5-4 and 11-10, and 6-1 in the series opener Friday night.
Thursday morning’s winner will play North Valleys at 1:30 p.m., while the loser will play at 9 a.m. Friday.
The teams entered last weekend’s series with Fernley holding the 4 seed and Elko in 5, with the winner of the series claiming No. 4.
In Friday’s game, Sara Moffett broke 1-1 tie with a two-run triple in the bottom of the fourth inning, then scored on a passed ball to give the Vaqueros the lead they never relinquished. Taylor Tollestrup hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning to make it 6-1. Pitcher Mackenzie Depaoli made it all stand up, allowing just one run with five strikeouts and two walks in seven innings.
Two rain delays disrupted the flow of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, but the Vaqueros came back from the second rain delay to score three times in the bottom of the fourth inning, on a bases-loaded walk by Cadence Nordman, and a two-run double by Moffett. Elko got a run back in the fifth and another in the seventh, but pitcher Janessa Robinson was able to get out of the jam and give the Vaqueros the win that clinched the fourth seed.
With the series victory already in hand, Fernley completed the sweep with a comeback from an 8-0 deficit, then another rally in the bottom of the seventh when they were down by two.
Elko scored six runs in the first inning and single runs in the second and third to go up 8-0.
But the Vaqueros kept chipping away, scoring three runs in the bottom of the third and once in the fourth. Then in the fifth inning, Depaoli singled in one run, Nordman again walked with the bases loaded to force in another, and Moffett hit a double that drove in two runs to tie the game at 8-8.
Elko scored twice in the top of the seventh, but in the bottom, the Vaqueros tied the game when, with the bases loaded, Robinson hit the ball back to the pitcher, who threw home for a force out, but the throw to first trying for a double play was wild and went down the right field line. Hunter Lyle, pinch running for Robinson then tried to steal third, and scored on an overthrow for the walkoff win.
“The girls came back with just keeping their heads down and attitude right, just keep chipping away,” said assistant coach Tom Kingston. He was filling in for head coach Diane Chapin, who missed the weekend series to attend her son’s college graduation. “There’s seven innings to this game, that’s what I kept on preaching back to them, so they kept on fighting for every inning, so that was fun to watch.”
One of the keys to the comeback was the pitching of Robinson, who relieved starter Taetum Bill in the seventh inning. Robinson gave up two runs, mostly due to bad luck, but her pitching kept the game close enough for the Vaqueros to make up the deficit.
The Vaqueros have now won nine consecutive league games after an 0-6 start, and Kingston said they have solidified their lineup after some early struggles.
“If the pitching stays on point like it’s been, we have to make errors less than (our opponents), we have to hit more than they do and things will be good,” Kingston said.