Maybe, if only for a moment, Douglas High School softball had some doubt in the Class 5A North regional softball championship game.
Maybe, but it didn’t last long.
Douglas dominated Reed en route to its second Class 5A North regional title in as many years with a 16-3 win over the Raiders in five innings.
The Tigers will open up the Class 5A state tournament against Palo Verde at 2:45p.m. Thursday at Hixson Park at Nevada, Reno.
Palo Verde bested last year’s Class 5A state champ, Green Valley, in the consolation finals. Centennial will play Reed in the opening round, following Douglas/Palo Verde.
Not only is it another banner for the Tigers, Douglas did it without losing a league game all season (16-0) and didn’t drop a contest in the regional tourney.
In fact, the only runs the Tigers allowed in the entire regional tournament came in the championship.
Between Talia Tretton and Mackenzie Willis, Douglas had pitched four straight shutouts to that point, starting with the regular season finale.
“To have two pitchers like that on a high school team is pretty special,” said Douglas High head coach John Glover. “They’ve split it up and they’ve done a great job all year and we are lucky to have them.”
Willis got the start in Saturday’s regional championship and had some bumps early on, but the senior wasn’t phased and settle in after the top of the second.
She finished the five-inning affair with nine strikeouts and two earned runs on eight hits and a pair of walks.
Six of those nine strikeouts came in the final three innings.
Then there were the 16 runs from the offense.
Douglas piled on in the third.
After tying the game in the second inning behind two, two-out doubles from Haley Wilkinson and Ava Delaney, the Tigers pelted the Raiders for seven runs in the bottom of the third.
Zora Simpson doubled to center, Dakota Till singled and Bre Williams drove them both in with a double that would’ve been a no-doubt homer at next week’s state tournament venue, but smacked into the top of the 20-foot wall at Carson High and came back into play.
Catcher Cam McClelland drove in Williams with a double of her own, making it 6-3, before Wilkinson and Delaney took over at the top of the order.
Wilkinson, who was 3-for-4 with five RBIs, singled to make it 7-3.
Delaney, who went 3-for-3 with three runs driven in, hit nearly the same spot Williams did at the top of the left field wall, knocking in Wilkinson.
“I didn’t even know it hit the fence. I was hyped,” said Delaney. “I’ve been tweaking my swing a little bit so I’m happy I made good contact on that ball.”
The lineup turned over as the double champs brought 13 hitters to the plate in the third.
Maddie Gooch drove in a run, Williams ended the afternoon with three RBIs, Annie Hill was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Dakota Till didn’t drive in a run, but was 2-for-4 in her own as the Tigers combined for 19 hits in the regional championship win.
By the time the fifth inning rolled around, Douglas led 16-3.
However, the show wasn’t over.
With one on and one out – a Willis punch out looking – the game ended on a hard-hit ground ball up the middle.
After making a diving play to her right in the regional semis, junior shortstop Haley Wilkinson dazzled to her left, laying out for a liner to turn a game-ending double play.
“It’s mostly natural reaction because I work a lot on defense,” said Wilkinson. “I just do it so much, it happens naturally in a game.”
State and expectations
With two regional titles in a row, the expectations are there for the Tigers.
They’re not playing them off, either.
“They’re hungry. They’ll be ready. They definitely want another shot at it. We certainly want to win the state championship. There’s no secret there,” said Glover.
Of course, the Tigers are fully aware how last season ended.
Douglas fell to Green Valley in back-to-back games after needing one win to secure a state title.
“We want it so bad. It’s been one of our goals since the preseason. We got our first two goals and now we’re on to this one,” said Tretton.
With a team ERA of 1.67, a team batting average of .428 and an overall season run differential of 312 to 67, why change anything?
“I think we just keep doing what we’re doing right now. We’ve been successful with our approach at the plate and our defense, I think if we just keep doing the same things we will be able to be successful,” Wilkinson.
(The Douglas High softball team celebrates after winning the Class 5A North regional championship over Reed Saturday, 16-3. Douglas will be representing the North in the state tournament as the regional champs for the second straight year. / Ron Harpin)