Shelbi Denman wasn’t in Shadow Ridge’s original starting lineup Saturday.
With Denman still getting over the flu, Mustangs coach Julia Meyn had Mia Voges listed as her team’s starting pitcher.
But Denman, who tossed 10 innings to beat Palo Verde in Thursday’s Division I Sunset Region winners’ bracket final, convinced her coach that she was ready to go in the region final Saturday.
And then went out and pitched the Mustangs to their first region title in seven years.
Denman threw a six-hitter to help Shadow Ridge to a 4-3 win over Palo Verde in the Sunset final at Bishop Gorman. Shadow Ridge (30-5) advances to the state tournament next week in Reno.
“I felt great today,” Denman said. “No one has wanted it more than us all season. We haven’t expected state, but it has been our main goal. I live for (my teammates). I work for them.
“It’s unbelievable. This is a feeling you can’t describe.”
Denman allowed just one hit in the first four innings before Palo Verde (29-8-1) scored three runs in the fifth to tie the game.
She pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, and after Shadow Ridge scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth, Denman got a foulout to left with the potential tying run at third to end the game.
“We knew (Palo Verde) hadn’t done well with Denman the last couple of times, but she was fighting the flu,” Meyn said. “She said she was 100 percent, and I just didn’t want to chance it. I saw her throwing harder today than she had been.”
Sofia Meza scored the eventual winning run on a wild pitch with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie after the Mustangs appeared to be in complete control early.
Shadow Ridge scored twice in the second inning and added a run on Kate Dennis’ RBI double in the third, but Palo Verde pitcher Taylor Askland pitched out of a second and third, no-out jam in the third and stranded runners at the corners in the fourth inning to keep the Panthers in the game.
Askland threw 548 pitches in 31 1/3 innings in the Panthers’ first four games in the tournament, which started Tuesday.
Palo Verde (29-8-1) tied the game in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly by Lauryn Barker, an RBI single by Cara Beatty and an error.
Meza led off the bottom of the sixth with a bloop double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Samantha Milanovich, and one out later, scored on a wild pitch to give the Mustangs a 4-3 lead.
“The kids just kept motivating each other,” Meyn said. “It was a total team effort. I’m so proud of them. We have some great athletes.”
Samaiya Montgomery was 2-for-3, and Alisha Schultz went 2-for-4 for Shadow Ridge.