Sierra Vista softball coach Keith Ulrich felt his team played with a great deal of energy in the opening round of the Division I-A state tournament on Thursday.
It still wasn’t enough to beat Northern Region champion Fernley.
The Vaqueros used a four-run fifth inning to break a 3-3 tie, and held on for a 7-3 victory over Sierra Vista at Bishop Gorman.
Sierra Vista (17-10) will face Faith Lutheran (31-10) in an elimination game at 8 a.m. Friday at UNLV, while Fernley (28-5) takes on Churchill County (25-9) in the winners’ bracket final at 10 a.m.
“I told the girls after the game that I thought we played well,” Ulrich said. “Our energy, especially how we prepared before the game, was great. It was just our execution was a little poor, especially in that fifth inning. And at this level, you have to have pristine execution in order to win a state championship. They know that.”
Sierra Vista appeared to grab momentum in the top of the fifth inning after pitcher Kalei Watkins hit a two-run home run to deep center field to tie the game at 3.
But Fernley had other plans in the bottom half of the inning.
No. 8 hitter Kayla Harrison led off with a five-pitch walk and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Leadoff hitter Mercedes Rothwell, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs, then doubled to put runners into scoring position for Hailee Edgar.
During Edgar’s at-bat, Watkins was called for an illegal pitch, which resulted in Harrison scoring from third base and Rothwell advancing to third. On the next pitch, Edgar hit a ball to the left side that was misplayed by Sierra Vista third baseman Taylor DeGuzman for an error to score Rothwell and make it 5-3.
Courtney Dunn added a two-run single in the inning for the Vaqueros.
“At this level, against a team that talented, you can’t make any mistakes,” Ulrich said. “We walked a couple leadoff hitters at the bottom of the order; we took three strikeouts looking; we had a few playable balls that our girls could’ve made plays on to get us out of innings.”
The Mountain Lions, who finished with three errors, couldn’t muster any offense in the next two innings and were retired on just six batters.
“We just couldn’t come up with the timely hits,” Ulrich said. “The main thing was, we didn’t make the adjustments to their pitcher. The first half of the game, we hit the ball pretty well. But the second half, after Kalei’s home run, we only got two hits.”
Serena Olson finished 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI for Fernley.
Adrianna Somerville went 3-for-4 with two runs for Sierra Vista, and teammate Harmony Dominguez was 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Watkins finished 2-for-3 with a run and two RBIs for the Mountain Lions, who will face Faith Lutheran for the sixth time this season on Friday. Sierra Vista won three of the five games, but has dropped the last two.
“We’re very familiar with what they bring,” Ulrich said. “There’s no surprises anymore.”
Churchill County 21, Faith Lutheran 8 — The Crusaders committed nine errors and surrendered a 12-run seventh inning in their loss to the Greenwave.
Erin Gilchrist was 2-for-2 with a double and two runs, and Vanessa Valdez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for Faith Lutheran, which trailed 9-8 after six innings.
Lauren Beatty, Breanna Hemphill and Claire Peck each had doubles for the Crusaders. Beatty and Hemphill also scored two runs apiece.
Ali Tedford was for 4-for-6 with a double, and Faith Cornmesser had a three-run home run for Churchill County, which got four runs apiece from Izzy Thomas and Courtney Cross.
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.