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Panthers begin pursuit of third straight 1A state title

No school has won three straight Class 1A state softball championships since Yerington took four straight from 1986 to 1989.

Pahranagat Valley hopes to change that this season.

The top-seeded Panthers (15-8-1) begin the postseason when they host fourth-seeded Tonopah (7-9) in the first round of the 1A Southern League playoffs at 4 p.m. Thursday.

“We talk about the fact that we have a target on our back, the other teams are hungry and they want to come and beat us,” Pahranagat Valley coach Mike Sparrow said. “We do talk about continuing the tradition, continuing to finish.”

Along with Spanish Springs in 4A, Fernley in 3A and Needles (Calif.) in 2A, Pahranagat Valley has a chance this season to become the first school to win three straight softball state titles in any class since Pahrump Valley from 2003 to 2005 in 3A.

Other schools to accomplish the feat are Boulder City (1984 to 1986 in 2A), Reed (1988 to 1990 in 3A), Needles (1989 to 1991 in 2A) and Wooster (2000 to 2003 in 4A).

But first, the Panthers must reach Saturday’s final of the league playoffs to clinch a spot in the state tournament.

Sparrow feels confident because Pahranagat Valley has parlayed a No. 1 seed in the region playoffs into the South’s No. 1 seed for state each of the past three years.

“The nice thing is, we’ve had some experience there before,” he said. “I’ve got a core of kids that have experienced that, so I’m pretty confident.”

At the forefront of that core is junior pitcher Addie Canning, who has a chance to win four state titles in her career.

“Two years ago, she was a freshman and we were in the state championship game,” Sparrow said. “Carlin had the tying run on third base, I brought her in, and she got three outs and we won the state championship.

“She’s just been like that the whole time.”

Sparrow, who calls most of Canning’s pitches, said her biggest strength is her ability to “hit the location.”

“She’s very consistent in her pitching motion,” he said. “She can pitch a long time. She’s very composed on the mound. She doesn’t let a lot bother her.

“She has that ability where she can just calmly take over the game.”

In addition to Canning, Sparrow credited catcher Mary Higbee, shortstop Molly Hansen and first baseman Chanae Canning with providing veteran leadership.

The Panthers swept their 12 league games by a combined score of 164-13 during the regular season. That includes a 15-0, 15-5 doubleheader sweep of No. 2 Indian Springs (10-8).

“We’ve got to play from the first pitch and get after them,” Sparrow said. “But we do believe that we can outlast teams offensively.”

Indian Springs faces third-seeded Lake Mead (12-14-1) in Thursday’s other first-round game at 6 p.m.

The 3A Southern League playoffs open Friday with a pair of best-of-three series.

No. 1 seed Boulder City (28-3) hosts No. 4 Moapa Valley (7-18) and No. 2 Faith Lutheran (14-15) hosts No. 3 Virgin Valley (8-20) at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

The 2A Southern League tournament begins Friday at Needles (Calif.)

No. 1 seed Needles (16-5) plays No. 4 White Pine (12-16) at 10 a.m. and No. 2 Lincoln County (21-9) faces No. 3 Calvary Chapel (13-14) at noon.

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