Douglas softball finishes as zone runner-up
Appeal Sports Writer
Douglas High’s softball team won the hearts and respect of softball fans around Northern Nevada with its spirited play the last three days.
The Tigers won four straight games in the loser’s bracket before falling 7-1 to Mallary Darby-led Spanish Springs in the championship game Saturday afternoon at Carson High School.
Douglas, which reached the finals with a 6-5 come-from-behind win over Reed, finished 24-13. The Tigers lose just two starters from this year’s squad which finished third in the Sierra League.
After an opening-round loss to Reed, Douglas reeled off wins over Elko, Carson, Reno and Reed before being eliminated on a four-hitter by Darby, who fanned 14 and walked only one.
“I’m just so proud of the girls,” Douglas coach Andy Mitchell said. “We were happy to be playing today. Not that we were settling.
“Darby is such a great pitcher. We haven’t seen a pitcher like that all year. It’s hard to adjust. The girls did an awesome job. We were right there until one swing of the bat by (Danielle) Ming.”
Mitchell was referring to the bottom of the fourth inning when Spanish Springs batted around and snapped a 1-all tie with three runs.
Darby hit a bloop single that barely eluded the grasp of Douglas first baseman Monica Diaz. After Courtney Darby popped out, Douglas pitcher Stephanie Harper plunked Alex Arciniega with a pitch. Ming followed with a homer off the scoreboard in left field to make it 4-1.
Spanish Springs loaded the bases on a double and two walks, but Jennifer Martensen rolled into a fielder’s choice for the third out.
Just for good measure, the Cougars scored three more in the fifth, as Harper, who tried to work exclusively outside, hit Abbay Fox to start the inning. Courtney Darby singled and Alex Arciniega was safe on an error by Donna Judd. Ming walked to force in a run, and with the infield pulled in, Ashley Decker slammed a single to right field to score two runs. Decker was thrown out trying to take second on the play. Jaci Carlsen grounded out to end the inning.
MacKenzie Cauley led off the Douglas sixth with a bloop single, but Darby retired the dangerous Lauren Hoppe on a foul pop fly to third and then fanned Tisha Luken and Krista Morgan to end the inning.
The Spanish Springs ace easily retired Douglas in the top of the order to end the game.
While Douglas may have gone out meekly in the last three innings against Darby, it battled throughout against Reed in the morning elimination game.
Trailing 5-3 entering the seventh, Hoppe led off with a single against Kristy Pasley. Luken followed with a single to right, and Hoppe reached third when the ball was bobbled. Luken took second on the play.
Reed ace Chelsea Cohen came on, and proved no mystery to the Tigers. Morgan hit an 0-2 fastball for a two-run double, tying the game at 5.
Harper followed with a liner that hit Cohen in the stomach and rolled across the first base line. Both Cohen and catcher Erica McKenzie went to retrieve the ball, and Morgan alertly raced home with the go-ahead run, barely beating a lunging tag.
“I saw it (Harper’s ball) hit her,” Morgan said. “I rounded third hard and nobody was at home, so I thought I might as well risk it.”
“She’s a real strong player,” Harper said. “I’ve been playing on the same team with her for four years. She’s a really heads-up player.”
Cohen retired the next three hitters to end the inning.
Harper gave up a lead-off single in the seventh and and a sacrifice gave Reed a runner at second. Harper struck out Justine Cooper looking and retired Natalie Ceccarelli on a soft liner to Luken at shortstop.
Harper fanned six and walked six, but made big pitches when she needed them. Reed hitters were unable to lay off the pitches just off the plate, and as a result, grounded out weakly several times.
“I have to throw out there,” Harper said. “If I throw the ball inside, they are going to drive it.”
All five runs of Reed’s were unearned, and four came in the fourth when the Raiders took a 4-3 lead.
Harper retired the first two batters of the inning, and then yielded a single to Megan Ceccarelli and a walk to Cooper. Natalie Ceccarelli followed with a one-hopper, and Harper threw wildly to first, allowing Megan Ceccarelli to score. Paisly walked to load the bases, and Brooke Silva cleared the bases with a double to give Reed a 4-3 lead.