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SOFTBALL: Paige Murch lifts Needles to first region title since 2009

Heading into the Class 2A Southern Region softball final at Mountain View on Saturday, Needles sophomore Paige Murch said her thoughts kept swirling around one thing: basketball.

“That feeling of losing to Agassi Prep (in the Southern Region championship) never went away,” Murch said. “Even after winning state, it never went away. So I think we brought that momentum into softball, and it helped pay off.”

Murch went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, two runs and two RBIs to lead Needles to its first region title in eight years with a 7-1 win over Lincoln County.

“You could tell their momentum was down after losing yesterday to us,” Murch added. “Our team came in confident, we were really proud of what we accomplished and we came here to get the job done.”

Needles, which defeated Lincoln County 11-2 on Friday, used a five-run third inning to seize momentum in the championship. Starting pitcher Kourtney Fletcher, meanwhile, neutralized the Lynx hitters and tossed a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts.

Fletcher walked none and gave up a solo home run late in the game, to Cameron Lloyd, who went 2-for-3 for the Lynx.

Kailey Kelley also went 2-for-3 with a double for Lincoln County. Kelley and Lloyd were the only Lynx players to get hits.

“We came in thinking it was going to be a hard game, they weren’t going to lay down for us and playing like it was a state game,” said Fletcher, whose changeup kept the Lynx off-balance. “Each inning we just kept telling each other ‘win the inning,’ and that just carried us throughout the game.”

Brooklyn McCorkle and Riley Breaux led off the bottom of the third inning with consecutive singles to get the Mustangs started. Jaycee Fragoso hit a routine flyball to right field that popped out of Macie Howard’s glove to load the bases, and Preslee Murch followed with a two-run single. Brenna Chavez hit a sacrifice fly to center field to give the Mustangs a 3-0 lead, and Paige Murch roped a double to bring her sister home, and later scored when McCorkle reached on an error.

Chavez and Paige Murch hit back-to-back home runs to straight-away center field in the fourth inning to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead, essentially sealing the win.

“The first couple of innings we were a little nervous … but our second time through the lineup we started hitting the ball better, started hitting line drives,” Needles coach Tony Rubalcaba said. “We split with them in the regular season, but I thought we were the better team all along. Yesterday we came out swinging the bats, and it was probably the best game we played, and it carried over to today.”

Both teams qualified for next week’s state tournament, which begins Thursday.

Pahranagat Valley 15, Indian Springs 0 — At Indian Springs, the Panthers (27-4) routed the Thunderbirds (13-11) to earn their fifth Class 1A Southern League tournament championship in a row.

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