The Las Vegas High softball team was one out from elimination Thursday when freshman Tiffani Taylor stepped to the plate.
Under ordinary circumstances, Wildcats coach Danielle Rumph might have counted her team out, but she knew Taylor was no ordinary underclassman.
With a runner on first, the freshman ripped a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence for a dramatic walk-off homer that gave Las Vegas a 3-2 victory over Liberty in the losers-bracket quarterfinal of the Sunrise Region tournament at Majestic Park.
The win lifted the Wildcats into today’s 3 p.m. semifinal against Green Valley, with the winner of that game to play Foothill at 5 for the Sunrise championship.
“(Patriots pitcher Breanna English) gave me an inside screw,” a teary-eyed Taylor said after a lengthy team celebration on the infield. “I knew I’d have to pull it hard to protect myself, and I must have hit it hard enough to get it somewhere.”
The situation looked grim for the Wildcats just moments earlier, as Liberty took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh after capitalizing on two Las Vegas errors and two hits to score a pair of runs in the fifth inning.
But with two outs in the seventh, Krizzle Galvez’s sharp grounder to third base was misplayed by the Patriots, giving Las Vegas a baserunner and one more chance. That brought up Taylor, who nearly fouled out on a 2-2 pitch before hitting the game-winner.
“This season has been such a roller coaster,” said Rumph, who noted that Taylor has been a clutch player throughout the season. “Even though we sent out a freshman with two outs, I couldn’t have had a player in that situation who I’d want in there more.”
Foothill 3, Green Valley 0 — Shelby Medrano tossed a five-hit shutout to lift the second-seeded Falcons into the finals with a victory over the top-seeded Gators.
For the second consecutive day, Medrano supported herself by producing at the plate, as her two-out, two-run homer in the fifth inning proved to be all the offense Foothill would need.
“I knew this game was going to come down to who wasn’t going to make a mistake,” said Falcons coach Tom Mayes. “This was a good win for us. If we get one more, we’ll get to play next week (in the state tournanment).”
Medrano finished with three of Foothill’s four hits.
Ali Bodnar went 2-for-3 with a double to lead Green Valley.
Las Vegas 4, Valley 3 — Bri Guzman went 3-for-4 as the Wildcats scored four runs in the first two innings and held on for a win in their early elimination game.
Nikki Diaz added two hits for Las Vegas, which also took advantage of five Valley errors. Taylor, meanwhile, earned a save after coming on in the fifth inning to relieve Monique Hernandez.
Liberty 4, Silverado 2 — Megan Patras went 2-for-4 with a double to help the Patriots eliminate the Skyhawks.
Liberty picked up unearned runs in the first and sixth innings and withstood a two-run fifth-inning Silverado rally.
Amanda Delgado and Akina Zuccaro each went 2-for-3 for the Skyhawks, while teammate Karlie Camardella drove in both runs with a fifth-inning double.