RENO — Courtney Cross moved a few steps in right field, secured the final out with both hands and then sprinted as fast as she could to the infield.
The rest of her teammates on the field and in the dugout followed to swarm pitcher Rileigh Ricken as Fallon captured the state crown after dropping rival Fernley, 4-1.
“The whole time we just had the last game in mind, and we didn’t want to repeat that,” Fallon shortstop Ali Tedford said.
Despite dropping the first game on Saturday, the Lady Wave softball team came back in the final game to win the program’s third state title in four years at the University of Nevada’s Hixson Park.
Fallon’s patience at the plate was its strongest weapon again after it took advantage of defending state champ Fernley’s struggle to find the strike zone. After losing 3-2 in Saturday’s first game, the Lady Wave scored four unanswered runs to win the title, keeping the trophy in the Lahontan Valley for the seventh time in the past eight years.
It also marked the first for Bill Archer as a head coach after assisting Phil Pinder win the 2011 and 2012 championships. Stacey McNair and Brad Dolan assisted Archer this season.
Fallon (three) and Fernley (four) have combined to win the past seven of eight titles with only Boulder City in 2010 reaching the mountain top.
“It’s a good rival. We set standards for each other,” Archer said of the battles with Fernley. “To come back and take it back and be a state champion while thinking about last year, this was the toughest one.”
Two players from this year’s squad played on the 2011 team when Fallon defeated Elko. Seniors Shelby Lawry and Gabby Sharpe (injured) each picked up their third championship, while Ricken and junior Tedford each nabbed a second title. Ricken and Tedford won their first championship in 2012.
Ricken pitched both games after going the distance in Thursday and Friday’s against Boulder City and Pahrump Valley, respectively.
“I can’t say enough about Riley. We were going with her as long as we could,” Archer said.
Ricken, who also pitched in all three regional games last week at South Tahoe, ran into trouble in the seventh inning, similar to how Fernley came back in last year’s state championship when the Vaqueros erased a seven-run deficit to win the state title.
Ricken allowed two singles in the final frame before Bailey Henderson flied out to Cross in right field for the school’s fifth state softball championship.
“After the first game, I thought that maybe it might happen,” Ricken said. “Once we were doing our ritual hacky sack (before the game), I knew that this team was going to win.”
Fallon drew 11 walks in the second game as Taelyne Phillips and Haley Mull struggled to find the strike zone.
Clinging to a one-run lead, Mull nearly yielded a grand slam to Ricken, the school’s all-time home run leader, in the third inning. The sac fly tied the game before Paige Thorn walked to score Ali Tedford and Hannah Frank walked, scoring Cross.
“I was hoping for it and started to see (the left fielder) stop running,” Ricken said about her long sac fly. “It didn’t feel like it was going out.”
Megan McCormick walked with the bases loaded in the fourth inning to cap off the scoring as Izzy Thomas crossed the plate.
“We got that momentum and when you get a break, it can take any of it out,” Fernley coach Diane Chapin said. “Our pitchers were struggling a bit.”
In the first game, Fernley jumped to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when Mercedes Rothwell tripled in Keslie Callahan on the first pitch and then scored on Shandell Gemmel’s two-strike double down the left-field line. Ricken gave up three consecutive extra-base hits.
Fallon got one run back in the fourth inning when Nicole Mariezcurrena’s infield single scored Miranda Ford. Fallon tied the game in the fifth inning on Ricken’s sac fly, which scored Tedford.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Ricken nearly escaped with no damage but a misplayed ground ball allowed Fernley to take the lead and hang on for the win.