To be the champs, one must beat the champs.
The Fernley softball team did just that in a pitchers dual on Wednesday at the Ed Arciniega Complex.
Jordan King led the way for Fernley, as the Vaqueros picked up a 2-0 victory over two-time defending state champ Fallon. Rileigh Ricken took the loss, although she matched King pitch for pitch.
With the win, Fernley stands at 7-0 in the Northern Division I-A and needs one win against win Fallon to clinch the No. 1 seed for the postseason. Fallon, meanwhile, falls to 17-8 overall and 6-2 in the Northern DI-A.
The two rivals, though, engage in a doubleheader at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Fernley.
“She (King) threw well today,” Fernley coach Diane Chapin said. “She was real locked in and hit her spots.
King’s performance was not overpowering, but her ability to mix her pitches and let her defense work proved to be the difference. The senior only struck out one, allowed five hits and five walks, but Fallon’s offense was unable to execute in key situations.
Ricken, meanwhile, allowed six hits, struck out five and walked one.
“I thought our pitcher did a fine job,” Fallon coach Bill Archer said. “The first time, when you face your rival, everyone is just feeling each other out. They did a fine job and capitalized on some mistakes.”
The Vaqueros, meanwhile, also struggled to find their offensive groove, but broke through in the fifth inning with two runs.
Kelsey Callahan led off with a single and Kailey Daggit reached on an infield single to move Bryanna Ornelas — running for Callahan — to second. Mercedes Rothwell followed with a bunt, which Fallon firstbaseman Cady Cordes fielded but committed a throwing error to first base as she fell backward, which allowed Ornealas to score.
Serena Olson drove in Daggit with a ground out to Lady Wave second baseman Kaysee Archer.
“Both teams were hitting the ball, a lot of ground balls and defense had to be played,” Chapin said. “We missed a couple opportunities to score, so we just said we got to work on execution and get a few more hits.
Fallon threatened in the seventh inning as the Lady Wave put runners on first and second with two outs. Megan McCormick reached on an infield single and Ricken walked.
McCormick, however, was thrown out at third base by centerfielder Brooke Mattice when an errant pick-off throw reached Mattice. McCormick led Fallon with two hits.
Fallon also squandered chances in the first and second innings when several hitters could not lay down a bunt to move runners.
“We got to come and hit the ball and move runners,” Archer said. “I don’t know how many times we had runners on base and couldn’t get them around to score.”
Fernley is the only Division I-A club to beat Fallon the past two years. Lowry, who lost to Fallon in last year’s state title game, clipped the Lady Wave this season, along with Fernley.
The Vaqueros control their playoff destiny. One win against Fallon and a sweep against Dayton will clinch the No. 1 seed for Fernley.
Fallon, meanwhile, needs more help. The Lady Wave must beat Fernley twice to claim the league title and at least the No. 2 seed. If Lowry loses twice and Fallon beats Fernley twice, the Lady Wave would capture the No. 1 seed.
Fallon, Fernley and Lowry have already clinched a playoff berth.
“Our team has a lot of heart,” Archer said. “We know we are a better hitting team than what we showed here. We did a lot of things right.”