DIVISION I SOFTBALL: Centennial proves it’s simply the best

Mike Livreri has had plenty of talented teams in his 10 years as Centennial’s softball coach.

But moments after watching his Bulldogs rout archrival Palo Verde in the Division I state title game Saturday at UNLV’s Eller Media Stadium, the coach didn’t hesitate when asked if this year’s team was the best he has coached.

“The best. They’re the epitome of team,” Livreri said. “They are flat-out ballplayers, and there’s just been a connection with this team. They deserved everything they got.”

Centennial scored all of its runs in the first three innings and rode a marvelous two-hit shutout from senior Kate Rauskin to a 13-0, five-inning win over the Panthers to capture the school’s second state title in two years and fourth in 10 years.

The Bulldogs (36-6), who became the first Southern Nevada team to win consecutive softball titles in the state’s largest classification, put an exclamation point on a postseason that saw them go 7-0 while outscoring their opponents 77-11.

“There are just no words for this,” said senior center fielder Alyssa Finger, who had an RBI double in the first inning. “Everything just fell together at the right time. We feed off each other. You see one person go out and hit a double, and you want to go up and do it.

“We don’t have a weak spot. We’re awesome.”

Bulldogs shortstop Heather Bowen started a sharp 6-3 double play to end a Palo Verde threat in the top of the first, and the Bulldogs capitalized on a Palo Verde error in the bottom of the inning with four straight two-out hits to build a 4-0 lead.

Taylor Huntly, who earlier in her at bat just missed a home run down the left-field line, ripped a two-run single to left. Finger followed with an RBI double, and Lacie Chakos dropped an RBI single into right field.

Huntly had another two-run single in a four-run second inning, and Savannah Horvath capped a five-run third with her 17th home run of the season, a three-run laser over the fence in left-center.

“Centennial is a great ballclub,” said Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass, whose team finished 29-9. “They just hit the ball today.”

Said Livreri: “I can’t tell you why, but we’re just running on all cylinders. They’re extremely confident and focused.”

The runs were far more than the Bulldogs needed with Rauskin in the circle.

The senior, whose only loss this season eventually was erased when a California team forfeited the game, struck out two and walked one.

“Kate just brings this aura to the field,” Finger said. “She stays calm, and it makes us calm. She trusts herself, and we trust her. She’s a leader.”

Centennial’s defense was fantastic, as well.

Bowen ranged deep to her right to gun out Breanna Beatty on a grounder that deflected off of Horvath at third in the fourth, and Chakos stole two hits with great catches in left field.

“This is the greatest group I’ve ever played with; I feel so comfortable knowing that they’re behind me,” Rauskin said. “I couldn’t have ended it any better.”

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