The Dayton Nation hopes to celebrate two titles this week, but the road to two state championships won't be easy.
Both Dayton's baseball and softball teams have qualified for this week's NIAA 3A State Championships. In softball, the Dust Devils will likely have to beat out defending state champion Fernley. In baseball, Dayton will look to navigate through what promises to be a wide open tournament in which all four teams - the Dust Devils, Spring Creek, Truckee and Virgin Valley should have a chance at the title.
Among the local programs with the most daunting task is the Virginia City baseball team, who will compete this week in the 1A State Tournament in Wells. Calvary Chapel is the overwhelming favorite to win the 1A state crown.
The 3A tournament begins today at Western Nevada College's John L. Harvey Field, will continue Friday at the University of Nevada's Peccole Park and will conclude Saturday at WNC.
On Thursday, Dayton will open with Virgin Valley at 1 p.m. while Spring Creek will face Truckee at 4 p.m. in the double elimination tournament.
"That's really great they're doing it there," said Dayton coach Jay Merrell about playing at Nevada and WNC. "Hard work pays off. You get to play on fields like that."
In Virgin Valley, Dayton will face a team that knocked off defending champion Faith Lutheran. "It looks like they win a lot of close games," Merrell said.
Dayton's ace, Cory Yoder, will be on the mound against Virgin Valley. Yoder went 8-1 with a 1.41 earned run average this season, with his only loss coming to Northern 3A regular season champion Spring Creek. Yoder is also having a monster season at the plate, hitting .562.
Yoder and his battery mate, Ryan Ransdell plan to continue to play with each other next year at Butte (Calif.) Community College.
Dayton has an experienced lineup along with Yoder and Ransdell as there's Anthony Onstott at first, Tim Doyle at second, Connor Oliver at third, Nick Bircheff in left, Brandon Aguilera in center and Donald Somers in right. Konrad Perkins is the designated hitter.
Aguilera, Oliver, Bircheff and Perkins will also be available on the mound this week as well.
Even though she has a strong nucleus back from last year's team, Fernley coach Diane Chapin wouldn't say her team is the favorite, but did admit her club is "the one that everyone's after."
The double elimination tournament will be held on Friday and Saturday at Manogue. On Friday, Fernley will open with Spring Creek at 10 a.m. and Dayton will open with Pahrump Valley at noon. The winners will face each other at 4 p.m. Friday for the right to play in Saturday's championship round.
"We would like to see them at 4 O'Clock Friday," said Dayton coach Dusti Houk about a possible meeting with Fernley. "We've battled each other through the years and we have mutual respect for each other."
Fernley won two of three against Dayton this season. "They always come out and play well," said Chapin about Dayton.
Dayton has a difficult task in its opener against Pahrump. While Fernley beat Pahrump 10-2 in last year's state event, Pahrump also has a strong nucleus back from last year's squad.
Fernley has an experienced lineup with catcher Sev Johnson, who had a huge state tournament last year; second baseman Frances Estrada; shortstop Jaymee King; centerfielder Nicole Whitney; right fielder Seandra Beck; third baseman Kayla McCollum; third baseman/DH Chelsea Calvin; either Lynsie Dunn at first base or Markie Wilder at outfield or DH and Annie Lowry in left field.
King has been Fernley's top offensive player and had a huge zone event last weekend, hitting two home runs, including a grand slam. Beck has also moved up from the No. 9 position in the order last year to fifth this year.
WNC-bound Estrada has been Fernley's most versatile player over the years as she's also played shortstop and pitched. "She's your epitome of your softball player," Chapin said.
Chapin is still undecided on if she'll start McCollum or Sara Mello against Spring Creek. McCollum has already thrown a four-hitter against Spring Creek while Mello went unbeaten in the Northern 3A. "it's pretty tight right now," Chapin said.
Providing depth are Estrada and King, who has a one-hitter against Silver Stage.
There's no question who will pitch as long as possible for Dayton and that's Mackenzie Cole, who struck out 20 over 14 innings against Lowry on Saturday to send the Dust Devils to state.
"As long as we need her she's going to be on the mound," Houk said. "She's pretty much proven she's the one that needs to be on the mound."
Sierra Barnwell is Dayton's No. 2 pitcher. Dayton's lineup is Brittany Hill, a four-year varsity player, who started out in center field but has replaced the injured Natasha Wells at catcher; Melissa Goetz, a three-year starter at first base; Cole; Breann DeHaven, a three-year starter at third; left fielder Melissa Coyle; Brittany Burrows, a three-year starter in right; Barnwell, a four-year starter at second; shortstop Miriah Collins; and centerfielder Linsie Cross.
The 1A tournament begins today and runs through Saturday at Wells. Virginia City will open with Alamo at 4 p.m. today while Calvary Chapel will play Smith Valley at 1.
Calvary Chapel has several pitchers who throw in the upper 80s. Its only losses have come to 4A schools Bishop Gorman and Cimarron Memorial. Calvary Chapel lost to Bishop Gorman, which has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation, 8-2, and lost to Cimarron Memorial 6-5.
Still, Virginia City coach Brett Barnes isn't conceding anything. "We're not going in thinking anything," Barnes said. "We're going in to win."
Virginia City has three outstanding pitchers in Jared Craig, Matt McDougal and Brandon Trible. Barnes said he was undecided who would start against Alamo.
When they're not pitching, either McDougal or Trible is at third; Craig is at short along with Zach Shell when he's not pitching. The rest of the lineup goes as: 2B Matt Zulim; 1B Chris Bailey; LF Hunter Redman; CF Cory Monroe; RF Jake McCann; C Colt Dotson.