Eagles embracing new role as hunted in quest for repeat title

Boulder City softball players embraced the chance to make history for their school last year.

The Eagles relied on a talented mix of seniors and underclassmen to win their first Class 3A state championship since 1999.

Now Boulder City enters the season in an unfamiliar position: the hunted.

“The first thing is, I told them we’re not going to sneak up on anyone this year,” Eagles coach Bruce Reid said. “Everybody’s well aware of what we have, and that’s an unusual situation for us. It’s definitely different this year, coming in with a target on our back.”

Boulder City opens the season at the Colorado River Invitational at Needles on Thursday. The Eagles begin 3A Southern League play with a doubleheader at Moapa Valley on April 1.

All signs point to Boulder City remaining the team to beat in 3A, at least in the South.

The Eagles bring back five starters from a team that went 34-2, including an 8-0 league record. They’ll also try to stretch a 21-game winning streak, which includes five victories over larger 4A opponents.

Leading the way will be junior pitcher Karlee Koopman, who was 22-2 with a 0.88 ERA last season.

Reid said Koopman, a first-team all-state pick last year, has “learned to throw a few pitches she didn’t have last year” rather than resting on her laurels.

“Her mental toughness, she’s matured really fast on that,” he added. “It’s just been a pleasure coaching her.

“Karlee’s happy to have the load this year. She’s looking forward to it. She’s willing to take on that mode, and it doesn’t faze her.”

Boulder City should be led offensively by junior Taylor McKeever, who has moved from shortstop to catcher.

McKeever, who hit .453 and drove in 31 runs last year, replaces Paxton Fleming, last year’s 3A Southern League Most Valuable Player.

“It’s tough losing someone like Paxton, but it’s nice having someone like Taylor,” Reid said.

In addition to McKeever, the Eagles welcome back senior second baseman Ariel O’Neill, who hit .378 with 27 RBIs last season, and junior first baseman Ali Rants (.374, 23 RBIs).

“That core group, they’re focused already,” Reid said. “During scrimmages we’re really pleased with the way we played.”

Boulder City capped last season in memorable fashion, beating Dayton 3-2 in 10 innings in the snow in Reno for the program’s first state title in more than a decade.

“Winning it the way we did, in the snow, they’ll be telling that story when they’re old and no one will believe them,” Reid said. “To play in the snow and cold and win state, it was just one of those stories that will add to the legacy of Boulder City softball.”

Now the Eagles will look to add to their legacy with the team’s first repeat state title since 1986.

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