Game-ending pickoff seals state title | NevadaAppeal.com

Game-ending pickoff seals state title

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

RENO — Softball, like many sports, is a game of inches, which Lowry discovered in a 3-2 loss in the 2018 NIAA Class 3A Softball Championship game at Reno High School.

No man's land between third base and home plate can also appear distant, especially when a state-title game is on the line.

Down 3-1 going into the seventh inning, Lowry loaded the bases and scored a run against Fallon's Faith Cornmesser, but a pickoff on a Lowry runner who turned around to return to third base quickly ended the game with the Lady Wave winning its first state championship since 2015.

Cornmesser, pitching her third consecutive game at state, walked leadoff hitter Kelcy Cooper. The Wave had a break, though, when Cooper attempted to steal second base but was tagged out by shortstop Stacy Kalt.

One out, two to go for the Wave to cap a Cinderella season, but Cornmesser surrendered singles to Kylie Sappington and Sydney Conners. Madi McClellan, though, made the second out for Lowry, hitting a pop up on the first pitch to second base.

Cornmesser worked a 2-2 count on Bailey Sapien, but a softly infield hit resulted in loading the bases. Lowry's Sierra Mastrejuan singled on a 1-2 count, driving in a run, but a perfectly thrown relay from left-fielder Shelbi Schultz to Rylee Buckmaster caught Conners, who had overrun third base, trying to return to the bag. Buckmaster laid down the tag on a stunned Conners for the game's final out.

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Fallon coach Kasey Chu said Lowry made the game interesting in the seventh inning, but she cited the team's outstanding defense during the past two weeks for staying focused.

"The girls were awesome," she said of her outfielders, who had several key relays and plays on fly balls. "They made their throws and kept us in the game today. There's no better way to end the game."

Cornmesser gave up eight hits and walked four and fanned four. Fallon's ability to keep Lowry from scoring boiled down to the Lady Bucks' frustration by leaving nine players on the bags.

Shortstop Kalt saw the potential final out developing.

"It's definitely not how the game ends," she said, after taking a photo with her brother who lifted her up with the state trophy. "We were hoping to pick her off, and that's exactly what we did. We didn't want to let each other down."

One of the outfielders who had one of her best gamed since the end of the regular season was junior Alexis Jarrett, who made several diving catches in right field.

"It's so important we make those plays, especially when we play Lowry because they have a lot of good hitters," she said. "So, we had to judge and read the ball and be ready for anything. Lowry's a good team, (and) they're hard to play."

Cornmesser was happy she had her Greenwave angels in the outfield.

"My team had my back … and that really saved me," she said.

Fallon's rivalry goes back to basketball when the Wave dominated the Lady Bucks and eventually toppled Lowry, 60-45, for the state basketball crown. Lowry's sweep of Fallon in an April 28 doubleheader, though, ignited the Wave into a 13-game winning streak, which included the Northern 3A Regional Softball Championship and a flawless run at state.

Both Cornmesser and Lowry's top pitcher, Sylvie Prokasky, engaged in a classic pitching battle. Cornmesser, the workhorse of the Greenwave staff, wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the first by fanning Sapien. Cornmesser gave up a leadoff single on the first pitch, but then she fell behind on the count against three of the next four batters.

"I think we came out with a little bit of nerves," she said. "We needed to calm ourselves."

Kalt, another senior, agreed.

"We definitely had to struggle with our mental game," she said. "At first we were nervous, and then settled down and got it going."

Chu said her players were beginning to see the ball in their hitting game, but against Lowry, she said the Wave struggle.

"We (the coaches) talked about not being cocky but how we worked hard to be here," she said.

The Wave advanced to the state tournament with wins over Fernley and Lowry in the regionals. Fallon finished the season with a 27-9 record.

"We deserved to be here," she added.

In the top of the fifth inning, Cornmesser gave up two consecutive infield hits with one out, and Conners' bloop single loaded the bases. Jarrett's diving catch of McClellan's fly ball to right field resulted in the inning's second out. With the bases loaded, though, Cornmesser walked Sapien on a 3-1 count to give Lowry a 1-0 lead.

Fallon responded with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Kalt doubled on Prokasky's first pitch between center and right field. Cornmesser followed with a sharply hit ball that rolled under the third baseman's glove, scoring Kalt to tie the game. First baseman Macie Anderson's bloop single drove in the go-ahead run for a 2-1 lead.

After a meeting on the mound for Lowry, Fallon centerfielder Jordan Beyers reached first base on a throwing error to place runners on the corners. Aspen Mori's double that tailed quickly to the ground in left field drove in a run for a 3-1 Fallon lead.

Kalt led Fallon with two hits, a double and single, while Jarrett, Mori, and Maci Anderson each had a hit.

Fallon first baseman Anderson, one of six seniors who played their final game, said the team was excited to be in the championship game and wasn't going to let themselves or the town down.

"We decided we were not going out with a loss. As a team we stepped it up," she said of the Wave's late-game rally and final out. "This was our last chance to do it, and we decided we were not going to lose it."

Fallon 2, Boulder City 0

Cornmesser outpitched Boulder City's Bailey Bennett-Jordan, 2-0, on Friday.

Cornmesser recorded eight strikeouts, and she allowed two hits, Jerra Hinson's double with one out in the bottom of the second inning, and a single in the sixth from Lily Osman with two outs.

Both Cornmesser and Bennett-Jordan overpowered their opponents through the first three innings. In the fourth, though Fallon scored two runs, enough support to carry Cornmesser to the completion of her masterpiece.

The Lady Wave's Kalt beat out an infield hit. Cornmesser followed with a fly ball to centerfield. With Anderson at the plate, Kalt swiped second base, but an error on the throw allowed the Fallon shortstop to advance to third. Anderson hit a fly ball to Hinson, who made a running, shoe-lace catch.

Jordan Beyer then rode a 1-0 pitch for a double that scored Kalt, and Mori hit an RBI single. Beyers slid into home plate head-first ahead of the throw to catcher Marleena Mills.

Cornmesser took over, striking out the side in the fifth inning. She ran into a jam in the sixth inning when Boulder City had runners on first and second and two outs, but Mills hit a comebacker to Cornmesser, who flipped the ball to first base.

In the seventh, Cornmesser retired the first two batters but then walked Bennett-Jordan. She retired outfielder Summer Coyle to end the game.

Fallon 12, Pahrump 2

The Lady Wave softball team continued its assault on opposing pitching, sending four balls over the fence in a 12-2 opening win over Pahrump Valley Thursday in the 3A state tournament at Reno High School.

Beyers smacked two home runs, including a game-changing three-run blast, and Shelbi Schultz and Kalt each hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to end the game on the mercy rule. After a shaky first inning when Cornmesser allowed a two-run homer to Taylor Egan, the senior hurler settled down with four shutout innings.

"Everyone gets a little nervous before the game," coach Chu said. "They didn't let that get them down and were able to jump on it. It was really good to see them come from behind and play some really good defense behind Faith."

Beyer got Fallon on the board in the second inning with a one-out solo home run to left-centerfield to cut the deficit to 2-1. Jarrett led off the next inning with a blooped single down the left-field line and Cornmesser singled with one out. After Anderson's sac fly, Beyer drove a 2-2 pitch over the right-center wall to give Fallon a 4-2 lead with two outs.

"I just have more confidence than I did before and I really had to wait on the ball," Beyer said. "I think we're pretty excited to try and make it (to the title game). We need to take it one game at a time and stay hyped up."

The defense came through in the fourth inning when Pahrump Valley threatened to tie the game.

After Jessica Pearson walked with one out, Ashleigh Murphy lined out to Kalt and the senior shortstop stepped on second for the double play.

Jarrett's fielder's choice in the bottom of the fourth scored Schultz, who singled, and Kalt laced an RBI single into left field to give Fallon a 6-2 lead.

Caitlyn Welch's defense was on display in the following inning with a double play when she tagged out Egan and then threw to Anderson at first for the third out. Egan was a triple away from hitting for the cycle.

Anderson led off the fifth inning with a single before Beyer walked, setting up Schultz's second home run of the year. She drove the ball over the left-field fence to increase the lead to 9-2. Welch walked with two outs, Jarrett reached on an infield single and Kalt blasted the team's fourth home run of the game to end the first round of the tournament.

"They're really seeing the ball and being selective on their pitches," Chu said.

— Thomas Ranson