There was no avoiding their cross-county rivals en route to a third consecutive state crown.
After dropping a two-run game to Fernley on Friday, the Lady Wave softball team bounced back in the consolation round to set up the eighth meeting this season with everything on the line. Two seven-run leads, however, were wiped away in the championship game as the Vaqueros came back in the final frame to win the Division I-A softball crown, 14-13, Saturday at UNLV.
“It was not like our team,” Fallon coach Bill Archer said about the girls self-destructing in the final inning. “The pressure got to our kids. There were mental errors that turned into physical errors. The fact that they were fundamental plays – kids making these plays all year long – I was surprised.”
Facing a different pitching corps than the previous meetings, Fallon jumped on Fernley with seven runs in the first inning before Fernley came back with three and then one in the second to trail 7-4. The Lady Wave, though, added two more runs in the fourth and four in the fifth to take another seven-run lead, 13-6.
“When you get to the state championship, you do whatever you can to win the game,” Archer said about Fernley’s pitching adjustment. “They kept us off balance with their different pitchers.”
Kalynn Huckaby, Rileigh Ricken and Paige Thorne each had three hits for the Lady Wave with Huckaby, a freshman, driving in a team-high four runs and doubling twice. Ricken homered and drove in three, while Megan McCormick, Cady Cordes, Kaysee Archer and Macy Myers each drove in runs during Fallon’s early scoring spree.
Fernley, though, battled back with three in the fifth off Ricken before staging a miraculous comeback in the seventh inning off Miranda Ford, which was fueled by several costly Fallon errors. The Vaqueros pushed across the game-winning run with one out.
“They’re a really good hitting team,” Bill Archer said of Fernley.
Ricken started the game, going four innings and giving up nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits and four walks. Ford gave up all five unearned runs in the final frame after bailing Ricken out in the fifth and then pitching a scoreless sixth.
“If going to the state championship game is a failure, then we’re off to a pretty good start,” Archer said. “It’s a great experience for the youngsters.”
Fallon loses three seniors including Danielle Rothery, who spent most of the year on the disabled list. Kaysee Archer, Cordes and Rothery graduate from the program with two title rings.
But Bill Archer looks forward to how this experience will benefit next year’s squad as it returns everyone except three infielders.
“They’re not going to see that (elsewhere),” he said about the pressure the team faced at state. “There’s a huge positive out of it.”
Fernley, too, will be loaded as it loses just a few seniors, setting up another possible state championship with Fallon.
“We’re looking forward to the fact of (a) rematch (with) Fernley in the future,” Archer said. “Us competing with Fernley in the same division helped prepare us for competition in the South and against each other.”
Unlike the title game, Fallon didn’t lead against Fernley as it lost 8-6 on Friday. Fernley jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Fallon scored two in the third inning. Fallon closed to the gap to one run in the sixth (7-6) before Fernley added an insurance run in the seventh.
“We battled back and forth. We had more hits,” Archer said. “We missed out on timely hitting and defensively, we had some errors but the pitching side was not as sharp as it could have been.”
Archer doubled twice and drove in three runs while Cordes and Ali Tedford each had two hits and drove in one. Megan McCormick belted a solo home run.
Ricken pitched most of the game (4.1 innings) as she gave up three runs on six hits. Ford allowed five runs on six hits.
Fallon’s beat Faith Lutheran twice including 7-5 to advance to the state title game.
“The kids bounced back to play Faith Lutheran again after the loss with a decent win,” coach Archer said.
The Lady Wave scored all their runs in the first two innings to help Ricken, who lasted into the fifth inning to pick up the win. Ford came in and did not allow a run or hit in 1.2 innings.
Archer, McCormick and Tedford each had two hits while Ricken singled in two runs and Gabby Sharpe doubled in two. Archer and McCormick drove in one run. Archer also had a triple.