Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Nineteen times since Diane Chapin became head coach of Fernley High School softball, the Vaqueros have reached the State Tournament, and of those, they’ve reached the championship game 11 times, winning five.
The one thing Fernley softball has never done, play the state tournament on its home field, will happen this weekend.
The Vaqueros needed an extra game, but defeated North Valleys 3-0 last Saturday in the if-necessary game to claim the Northern 3A Region Tournament Championship, and the No. 1 seed for this weekend’s 3A State Tournament in Fernley. After defeating Lowry 3-2 and North Valleys 6-4 in their first two games of the Region Tournament, the Vaqueros lost the first game in the championship round to North Valleys, 2-0, but bounced back to win the 3-0 to claim the title.
“We’ve been waiting on this for pretty much three years,” Chapin said. “We won the league and the region, now let’s go get ourselves the State championship.”
The Vaqueros will open the Tournament at 2 p.m. Thursday against Boulder City, which was the runner-up in the Southern 3A. North Valleys will face Southern champion Virgin Valley at 4:30 p.m. The semifinals and two elimination games will be played Friday with the championship Saturday.
The Vaqueros spent this week with the dual tasks of preparing to face three tough opponents, and making the arrangements to be accommodating hosts.
“We’re putting the finishing touches on the field, the school and in the community,” Chapin said. “We want people to say that Fernley was an awesome place to go and make it a good experience for all the girls.”
The Vaqueros were unable to get the clutch hits they’ve become accustomed to in the first game of last Saturday’s championship in Winnemucca. North Valleys pushed a run across in the first inning and another one in the third, and pitcher Brittney Byram didn’t allow the Vaqueros to string together any hits.
“We did get four, we just didn’t get them together,” Chapin said.
North Valleys had beaten Fallon 5-4 in an elimination game that morning that clinched their trip to the State Tournament, while the Vaqueros had to get off the bus to face a team that was coming in with momentum.
“They’re still hyped and ready to go, and they were probably relaxed now that they were in the State Tournament,” Chapin said.
While the Vaqueros may have had some jitters, with only one player, Braelyn Birkle, having been part of Fernley’s last postseason run in 2018, she said they seemed to relax after losing the first game.
Byram continued her strong pitching for North Valley’s but in her third game of the day, the Vaqueros finally got to her for two runs in the top of the sixth. They loaded the bases with no outs, and two runners scored on the same wild pitch to give Fernley a 2-0 lead. Fernley added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Kacie Harer singled in a run.
Mackenzie Viehland allowed just four baserunners, scattering two singles, a double and a walk and pitched around an error.
Having two strong pitchers in Viehland and Mackenzie Depaoli to split the load kept a fresh arm on the mound throughout the season for the Vaqueros, and Chapin said that has been a key to their success.
“We preach to them all year that they need to be in this shape when we get to the championship innings,” Chapin said.
The last time Fernley won the state championship, in 2017, the team received an escort into town by Lyon County Sheriff’s and North Lyon County Fire District vehicles.
This time, they hope to dance around on their own field, in front of their own fans after the final game.
“Hopefully they feed off the fact that we’re here,” Chapin said. “Hopefully we do get the support.”