One thing is certain when the Northern 4A Regional Softball Tournament opens today at Carson High School. That is, anything can happen.
Just ask Carson High School coach John Sullivan.
"Carson has been on both sides of that," Sullivan said. "We've come in and won when we weren't supposed to, and then there have been years when we were supposed to win and we didn't. A couple of years ago, Reed was the No. 6 seed and they were state champs when it was all over with.
"I guess that's why they play the games. It's like any other big game. If you play to your ability, anything can happen."
The tournament's three-day run begins at noon on two field at the Carson High softball complex when the host Senators (9-9, 18-13) face High Desert League champion Reed (16-2, 24-5), while Galena (14-4, 21-9) plays Douglas (15-3, 25-9). Two other first-round games are scheduled for 2 p.m., when McQueen (14-4, 23-10) plays Reno (12-6, 18-12) and Fallon (8-10, 19-13-1) takes on Sierra League champion Wooster (18-0, 34-2)
Wooster is the team most likely to take home the big trophy on paper considering the Colts are unbeaten in Nevada this season and listed No. 9 in ESPN's national rankings on May 4. Wooster is seeking its third straight regional and state titles.
"You have to pick Wooster as the favorite," Sullivan said. "I think almost all of the teams are pretty equal as far as putting nine quality players on the field. If there is one player who stands out above the rest, though, it would have to be Brianne McGowan."
McGowan, a 6-foot-2 junior, has been nearly untouchable as a pitcher this season. She has compiled a 23-2 overall record with 19 shutouts, including seven no-hitters (two perfect games). Three of those no-hitters came against Carson.
The Colts aren't alone in this tournament.
Douglas lost three times to Wooster, including a 1-0 thriller that went eight innings on April 2. The Tigers haven't lost since they dropped a 2-1 non-league decision at home to Fallon on April 12.
Reed comes into the tournament riding a six-game win streak, last losing 1-0 to Jenn Molinari and Galena on April 27. The Raiders advanced to the championship round of last year's regional tournament with a 5-0 victory against Wooster, only to have Wooster come back from the losers bracket to win the championship.
"It should be a good tournament," Sullivan said. "On any given day, some team could play the game of their lives and knock somebody off, and then the whole tournament is in disarray. Hopefully, Carson is going to be that team."
1. Wooster: McGowan may be the most publicized player, but the Colts have an abundance of talent. Cindy Elkins, who earned all-state honors as a center fielder in each of her first three seasons, moved to shortstop with impressive results in March after Andrea Lazzari broke a bone in her throwing hand. Elkins has signed to play at the University of Nevada. Lazzari is back in the lineup now, giving the Colts yet another productive bat in their lineup along with a cast that includes Jenny Lazzari and Katie Stevens (all-conference at second base as a freshman last year). McGowan also provides the Colts with an ever-present home run threat in the middle of the batting order.
2. Douglas: The Tigers have a mix of youth and veterans. Senior pitcher Jodi Gonzales and junior Katie Pagen give Douglas a formidable 1-2 pitching combo, backed by two solid seniors up the middle with Lindsey Rollins at shortstop and Allie Walling at second base. Walling is a fast and dangerous leadoff hitter and Rollins a threat in the No. 3 spot. First baseman Stevie Smith and freshman catcher Valerie Smith (no relation) carry strong bats as well. Valerie Smith has been a pleasant addition since being promoted from the J.V. squad last month.
3. Reno: The Huskies are led by a nucleus that includes a trio of all-conference returnees from last year: Jackie Rinehart, Joyce Cathey and Stacy May. Rhinehart is a fast leadoff hitter who can put pressure on opposing defenses, as was the case in a recent win against Hug when she hit for the cycle in a 5-for-5 performance. The junior also pitched a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in that same five-inning game.
4. Carson: Freshmen Kayla Dunn and Brittany Puzey have been impact players as freshmen this season for the Senators. Dunn will pitch the opener against Reed, with Puzey to follow in the pitching rotation. Puzey is the team's leading hitter with a .500-plus average and a school single-season school record nine home runs. Dunn is also hitting in the .480 range. Carson is hitting .303 as a team for the season. Lindsay Farnworth wields a key bat in the lineup and freshman Baylee Biber has helped out at catcher since her call-up from the junior varsity earlier this season.
HIGH DESERT LEAGUE
1. Reed: Whitney Smith was the Northern 4A Player of the Year and Ray Charles Coach of the Year in 2001 and both are back for the Raiders. Smith, a senior right-hander, scattered six hits in a big 5-2 win over McQueen on April 30 and turned in a one-hit, 11-strikeout performance to beat cross-town rival Sparks in the second game of a double header last Thursday. Shortstop Shaina Overbay was a second-team all-conference player last season.
2. Galena: The Grizzlies are led by Jenn Molinari, a three-time all-conference pitcher who has signed an NAIA letter with Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif., and Teresa Miller, who has signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Molinari pitched a three-hitter with one walk (intentional) to beat Reed 1-0 in the first game of a doubleheader on April 27. Miller is an all-conference performer and Galena's single-season batting average record holder.
3. McQueen: The Lancers are dangerous with a nucleus led by Katie Ward and Michon Jeanney -- both all-conference pitchers last season. This past Saturday Ward pitched a one-hitter in the first game of a double header against Fallon and then threw three shutout innings in relief of a second game the Lancers won 3-2 in 11 innings.
4. Fallon: A young team with just one senior on the roster, Fallon finished below .500 during its league season but has been involved in several close games. Tamalia Rosse, an all-conference utility player last year, pitched five-hit ball to win at Douglas on April 12. Divina Cocobob was a first-team all-conference DH last season. Kasey Beach delivered the game-winning hit in the ninth inning for the Greenwave in an important 2-1 victory over Elko on April 19.