Needles senior Raecheal Lowenthal has been struggling at the plate recently.
Mustangs coach Tony Rubalcaba never gave up hope, knowing deep down the outfielder will break out of her slump.
In the biggest moment Thursday, Lowenthal delivered.
Lowenthal’s pinch-hit, RBI single in the eighth tied the game, and the senior later scored the winning run on Jaycee Fragoso’s base hit to give Needles a 6-5 victory over West Wendover in the Class 2A state softball tournament at The Meadows.
Needles (24-3) faces Lincoln County (23-9), which got a pair of home runs from Kia Phillips in a wild 10-9 victory over Yerington, at 2 p.m. Friday. In an elimination game, West Wendover (18-13) will meet Yerington (26-6) at 11:30 a.m.
Lowenthal’s efforts spearheaded a comeback after the Wolverines scored three in the top of the eighth to take a 5-2 lead.
“She’s a four-year starter, and I knew she could deliver,” said Rubalcaba. “You see, you don’t have to hit the ball hard to be successful. We made the plays at the right times.”
Needles pitcher Kortney Fletcher started the rally with a one-out double. Nicole Hooper hit a pop-up that catcher Leslie Pinedo couldn’t handle, and the Mustangs had two runners on base.
After a passed ball, Bruke Zozaya hit a hard grounder that third baseman Nayda Rodriguez could only knock down, and Fletcher scored. Hooper later scored on the third Wolverines error, and the deficit was 5-4.
After Brooklyn McCorkle struck out, Lowenthal delivered a bloop single to right, knotting the game at 5-5.
Two pitches later, Fragoso singled past a diving Anahi Esparza at shortstop, and Needles advanced.
“These girls don’t quit,” said Rubalcaba. “They never get rattled and they just continue to play their game. Even when we got behind, they stayed focused.”
Needles opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the first on Brenna Chavez’s sacrifice fly, but didn’t score again until the sixth.
Meanwhile, West Wendover was held scoreless against Fletcher until the sixth, when the Wolverines scored a pair of unearned runs thanks to a throwing error by Fragoso with two outs and runners at second and third.
Trailing 2-1 after the Fragoso mistake, Needles answered with a run in the home half of the sixth on Hooper’s infield single.
Alyssa Thorn, Natasha Quintero and Esparza drove in runs in the eighth to give the Wolverines a 5-2 lead.
Lincoln County 10, Yerington 9 — The Lynx hit three homers in defeating the Lions.
Besides Phillips’ big day, Lincoln County got plenty of help from Cameron Lloyd, who also hit a home run and drove in four runs.
Maycie Howard added two hits for the Lynx, who had to hold on after Yerington scored three runs in the sixth to pull to within one.
“We’ve used the long ball a lot this year,” said Lincoln County coach Danny Lloyd. “But it was a scary game, with so many errors. I don’t know if it was opening-game jitters or what, but we have to control the mistakes.”
Both teams combined for 10 errors.
Yerington had a great chance to tie the game in the seventh, as Rachel Dane opened the frame with a single. Billee Lacey followed with a sacrifice bunt, but Dane was nailed trying to stretch the play heading to third.
Macaella Martinez then tapped back to the mound for the final out.