RENO — Ninth-place hitters aren’t usually power sources in softball. And they don’t have any business waking up and saying they’re going to hit a home run.
Alex Battest is far from an ordinary No. 9 hitter.
Coronado’s junior left fielder is as hot as anybody in the state tournament, and after telling herself Friday morning that she would homer for the first time all year, she did.
Battest belted a home run to left field and went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to help the Cougars advance to the Class 4A state championship game with a 6-1 victory over Reed at UNR’s Hixson Field.
“I woke up this morning and said I would hit a home run. I haven’t hit one all year,” Battest said. “I’m just feeling it.”
Battest, who played a key role in Coronado’s Sunrise Region championship win, also went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in Thursday’s win over Damonte Ranch.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I’ve just come out pumped the last couple of games,” she said. “I have a lot more confidence now.”
More like twice in a lifetime for Battest, who helped Henderson International to the Class 1A crown two years ago.
“That kid has worked so hard all year, and she just keeps bringing it every game,” said Coronado coach Melissa Krueger, whose team faces Centennial for the state title at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“She believes in herself. If there’s any kid I want up there right now, it’s Alex.”
On Friday, the rest of the lineup was just fine, too. Coronado (25-12) had 12 hits, with Danielle Amato going 3-for-4, and Alyssa Ayers and Lee Harrison — Battest’s former teammates at Henderson International — adding two each.
On top of that, the Cougars were terrific on defense. Haley Harrison made two sparkling catches at second base, and Battest tracked a deep fly perfectly in the seventh.
“They’re very focused right now. This group is so keyed in,” Krueger said. “We’re hot right now. That’s one of the better defensive efforts we’ve had in a long time.”
Amato tossed a six-hitter and struck out three.
Centennial 6, Reed 4 — Time nearly ran out on the Bulldogs.
Trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Centennial (32-8) broke out for five runs, with No. 9 hitter Bailie Nelson hitting a go-ahead two-run triple, to eliminate the Raiders (28-7).
Lauren Stroman had an RBI single, and Lacie Chakos’ grounder was misplayed for another run to pull Centennial within 4-3 before Nelson’s hit.
“It seemed like the bottom half of our order got the spark going,” Bulldogs coach Mike Livreri said. “Bailie Nelson just comes up big in big spots.”
Alyssa Finger had two of Centennial’s eight hits, and Heather Bowen added an RBI double.
Taylor Huntly gutted out a seven-hitter, allowing two earned runs and striking out five for Centennial, which improved to 27-0 when scoring at least six runs.
“Taylor pitched her butt off,” Livreri said.
Centennial was a 13-4 winner over Coronado on March 14, the teams’ lone meeting this year.
A Southern Nevada team is guaranteed to win the 4A title for a second straight year for the first time.
“I know how much of a challenge it is to come up here and win,” Livreri said. “It shows the south is coming along.”