Jennifer Watkins knew if she kept holding Reed in check, the cavalry eventually would arrive. So the Centennial senior kept throwing and throwing and throwing.
And finally, her teammates came through offensively.
Pitching arguably her best game in her final appearance in a Bulldogs uniform, Watkins threw an 11-inning eight-hitter to carry Centennial to a 7-4 victory Saturday at Majestic Park for its first Class 4A state softball title in five years.
Watkins kept the Bulldogs (30-10) in the game long enough for them to break through with three runs in the top of the 11th, the first two scoring on a double by sophomore catcher Kylie Bartlett.
“Jenn pitched extraordinarily,” coach Mike Livreri said. “That’s one of the things I want to stress most. She gets so overlooked, but we have a ton of confidence in her.”
Watkins pitched nearly three innings in relief earlier in the day when Reed (37-7) beat the Bulldogs 7-0 to force a decisive game. After throwing 34 pitches in that game, Watkins threw 133 more in the extra-inning finale.
“She’s an amazing pitcher,” Bartlett said. “She was on fire.”
Watkins finished in style, retiring the side on five pitches in the 11th.
“I’m pretty worn out,” she said. “It feels amazing. The whole time, I knew we were going to come back.”
And come back the Bulldogs did, even after Watkins allowed a tying three-run homer to Reed’s Kristi Pasley with two outs in the eighth.
Junior outfielder Sarah Cudahy triggered the Bulldogs’ two-out uprising in the 11th with a single on an 0-2 pitch.
“All I was saying was ‘I know I can do this,’” said Cudahy, a late-inning defensive replacement. “I did it for our seniors.”
Paige Reese beat out an infield single before Bartlett delivered her tiebreaking double to left-center.
“(Bartlett) has done it all year,” Livreri said. “She comes up and just smokes one.”
Bartlett fouled an 0-1 pitch behind home plate, but Reed’s catcher dropped the ball, giving Bartlett a second chance.
“I was just looking (for a pitch) middle-in,” Bartlett said. “When I hit it, I just ran. I didn’t know how well I hit it.”
Katie Lee added an RBI single to make the score 7-4.
The Bulldogs appeared to take control in the top of the eighth, scoring three unearned runs, but they let the 4-1 lead slip away in the bottom. An error and a walk kept the inning alive for Pasley, Reed’s first baseman, who belted a 1-1 pitch over the center-field fence with two outs to tie the score.
“I was sick to my stomach when she hit that ball,” Livreri said. “We had just talked about not giving her anything too good to hit.”
Johnna Brown, battling a stomach ailment, and Lee each went 3-for-6 for Centennial.
For Brown and younger sister Shannon, it’s their second state title in three months. The two helped Centennial win the 4A girls basketball title.
“Our team worked hard all season long,” said Johnna Brown, who was taken to a hospital after the game. “We had a lot of people who could hit. Katie and I had a lot less pressure on us.”
The Bulldogs are the only Southern Nevada team to win the 4A title since the state went to the current system in 1996-97.
“This one is more special,” said Livreri, whose team had to win a play-in game to get to state. “We rose from the dead a lot this year. We kept believing in ourselves.”
Reed 7, Centennial 0 — Chelsea Cohen hit two home runs and drove in four runs.
Reed 3, Shadow Ridge 2 — Pasley homered, and Reed held off a rally by the Mustangs (27-12). Shadow Ridge scored twice in the seventh and had the tying run heading home when Mary Jordan was out on a close play at first.