Taylor Askland will be among the first to admit that she’s not a strikeout pitcher. The Palo Verde sophomore usually relies heavily on her defense to record outs.
On Wednesday, Askland took matters into her own hands.
Askland struck out a season-high 10 batters and scattered nine hits to lead the Panthers to a 12-4 win over visiting Centennial in a winners’ bracket semifinal of the Division I Sunset Region tournament.
Palo Verde (28-6-1) will face Shadow Ridge (28-5) in the winners’ bracket final at 4 p.m. Thursday at Bishop Gorman.
“I felt really good,” Askland said. “I had a lot of energy, and my catcher Grace (Chavez) was really helping me out and getting a lot of strikes. The defense was backing me up.”
Askland, who struck out only four batters in 14 innings in the first two meetings between the teams this year, effectively mixed her change-up with a riseball that kept Centennial hitters off balance. She had five strikeouts in the first two innings.
“Her change-up was pretty awesome,” Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said. “We talk about her secondary push and her circle speed often. For her, I think she just wanted to bring her best stuff because Centennial is a really good team. She wanted to secure this win for her team.”
Askland entered the game with 72 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings.
“She’s probably one of the hardest-working pitchers I’ve ever coached,” Glass said. “She doesn’t accept defeat.”
Palo Verde, which won two one-run games against Centennial (24-12) in the regular season, grabbed an early 4-0 lead, but the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game on a three-run homer by Makenzie Ball and an RBI double by Angel Love in the top of the fourth.
The Panthers wasted no time striking back.
Allyson Snelling doubled to spark a five-run bottom of the fourth inning that gave Palo Verde and Askland plenty of cushion. Camden Zahn and Cara Beatty each had an RBI single, and Kali Tomlinson added a two-run double for Palo Verde in the fourth.
“I was so excited,” Askland said. “Just to know that your team has your back is so amazing.”
Makall Whetten tacked on a two-run home run in the fifth inning, the Panthers’ 46th homer of the season, good for second-most in state history. The 2008 Spanish Springs team and the 2012 Centennial each hit 45 homers according to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association record book. Lincoln County hit 56 homers last year, though that number has not yet been included in the state record book.
Tomlinson was 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs, and Beatty went 3-for-3 with three RBIs for Palo Verde.
Ball was 2-for-4 with the homer and three RBIs, and Love was 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI for Centennial, which will meet Arbor View (18-13-1) in an elimination game at noon Thursday at Gorman.
Shadow Ridge 3, Bishop Gorman 0 — At Shadow Ridge, Shelbi Denman tossed a two-hitter and struck out nine to lead the Mustangs by the Gaels in the other winners’ bracket semifinal.
Caitlyn Covington had a two-run triple in the Mustangs’ three-run first inning.
Samantha Stanfill threw a four-hitter for Gorman (18-16-1), which will face Desert Oasis (21-15) in an elimination game at 2 p.m. Thursday at Gorman.
Arbor View 5, Cimarron-Memorial 4 — At Arbor View, Terren Vinson singled home Bryce Henricksen with the go-ahead run in the sixth inning to give the Aggies a win over the Spartans.
Lileya Kebos provided a two-run single in the first inning for Arbor View, which then fell behind 4-2. Adriana Thomasen had a two-run single in the fifth inning that scored Vinson and Taylor Beaman to tie it at 4-4 for the Aggies.
Rebecca Johnson was 2-for-3 with a double and a run to lead Cimarron (7-15).
Desert Oasis 6, Legacy 2 — At Desert Oasis, Makayla Rickard went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs as the Diamondbacks topped the Longhorns in an elimination game.
Meaghan McInerney went 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI, and Izzy Hodson was 2-for-4 with a run for Desert Oasis.
Makayla Nunez went 1-for-2 with a run for Legacy (16-14).