In the wacky world of sports the number three team is usually not expected to do much in a tournament, but the Lady Trojans refused to follow the status quo.
In the championship game for the Division I-A Southern Regional Title, Amanda Pryor sealed the deal in the 3rd inning with a grand slam, which made the score 5-1 against Boulder City last Saturday. The Trojans held on to win 6-4.
The long ball has been a big part of the Trojans during the playoffs, but the girls are not thinking home run every time they come to bat.
“The coach came up to me and said don’t be a hero and just find a hole out there,” Pryor said. “I told him, ‘That’s what I plan on doing.’ The pitcher gave me a 3 and 0 count and I said, ‘OK, I am going to get walked.’ She gave me a meatball and I waited on it. I didn’t think it was going to go past the center fielder.”
This was number 4 for Pryor who leads the team in home runs.
The team has won its last 4 playoff games, beating Moapa 12-6, Faith Lutheran 6-5, and Boulder City 8-2 and 6-4. In the past four games they beat the top team from the Sunrise league, Boulder City, twice and the top team from the Sunset league, Faith Lutheran, one time. The Trojans out scored their last four opponents 32-17.
The Trojans are the Division 1-A Southern Regional Champions for the first time since 2008 and one of the hottest teams in softball. The last time the girls were state champions was in 2005.
Trojans Coach Eli Armendariz is ecstatic with the wins.
“I told my team look at what you have done, you beat a number 2 seed, and you beat a number 1 seed three times and you went undefeated in the tournament. You have gone from the number 3 seed to the number 1 seed in the south. Then I told them, ‘Come to practice on Monday and get ready to work hard,’” Armendariz said.
Of course, the Northern teams will not just let Pahrump win. Pahrump must go through a tough Fernley team who has a 22-2 record during the regular season and possibly Churchill County from Fallon who did exactly what Pahrump did. Churchill beat the number 2 and 1 seeded teams too, to take the Northern regional title.
“The Northern teams have had a couple of common opponents and they have handled them pretty well. I am looking forward to some good games. We need to not depend on the long ball and start stringing together some singles and doubles. We need to take one game at a time,” Armendariz said.
The tournament will be a four-team double elimination tourney. This means a team needs to lose two games to be out.
Fernley will be the Trojans’ opponent on Thursday at 4:30 at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno.
Fernley has a team ERA of 2.0, but has given the long ball up. They almost lost to Lowry, the second seed team, when a Lowry player hit a home run in the game, but according to the umpire the player did not touch first and was thrown out. Fernley has a .413 team batting average and the team has hit 34 home runs for the year.
Pahrump will rely on the solid pitching of Whitney Roderick and their hot bats to get them through the tourney.
Roderick has 20 strikeouts and 17 runs in the past 4 games. With Pahrump defense playing to its best ability, Roderick knows she doesn’t have to strike them all out and this takes a lot of pressure off her shoulders.
“I knew after four playoff games that I wasn’t going to be on my “A” game. I wasn’t going to throw the hardest pitches I could throw or the best breaking ball I could do, so I really had to depend on my team. If I did make a mistake I knew they would be there to pick me up,” Roderick explained. “After four playoff games, I am not going to lie. My arm was down for the count. I had a couple days rest now and I iced it twice a day for the last couple of days.”
Roderick said she will do nothing heavy with her arm to give the rest it would need to get through the playoffs.
She said her best pitch was her fastball but she said her best junk ball was her outside curve.
“I was looking at the Northern pitchers and all their pitchers were below a 2 ERA. So the pitching is good on paper,” Armendariz said. “Whitney can just go and go. We know Whitney can go two games in a row. I think Boulder put their second string pitcher in because they had to win the the game against Faith first and perhaps knew their pitcher would be too tired.”
Faith Lutheran was eliminated by Boulder City who beat them 16-11.
During the season coaches make the crucial decision to play or not to play certain players. In this case, Armendariz had to make a crucial decision to play two freshmen who had hot bats to give his team the needed spark.
Jordan Egan and Leeanne Kaiwi were both added on and brought up for the playoffs from the JV squad because the team batting was faltering towards the end of conference play. The team actually lost to the 4th place seed Mojave at the end of the season.
“Our batting and lineup has improved 100 percent since those two entered the lineup,” he said. “We were frustrated with the way some of the upperclassmen were playing. We told the team we were tired of the way they were playing and the attitude they had and we said we were going to move some people up and they are going to take some spots you thought were yours. They dealt with it and now that they are winning and they love it,” the coach explained.
Roderick agreed with the coach and said this about the freshmen, “The two freshmen have added so much. They have proved their worth to us. They are just such good players. We are glad to have them with us.”
The Kaiwi clan has three players on the team, Kristal, Lonnie and Leeanne.
Leeanne has had a good ride so far with her varsity teammates and has hit two home runs during the playoffs to help the Trojans win.
“I hit a grand slam with the junior varsity team. I don’t go for the home run balls but when I hit them out they are usually high and in the middle. My favorite are the middle to outside. I wasn’t surprised that they went over,” Leeanne said.
Kristal said this about her sister, “I was not surprised when my sister made the varsity team. She was always one of the best players on her teams and she always worked hard and did what she could to improve herself. I think she earned a spot on the team. I love having my sisters on the team. I think my sister is just a natural hitter.”
The other player is Jordan Egan, the catcher.
Jordan Egan said she was happy she made the team. “I started playing catcher since fourth grade. I practice my hitting a lot. Ms. Toomer has really helped my hitting a lot.”
When asked, about the key to her success with the varsity team, Egan replied, “I would say it is because all the girls on this team have played with each other for years so we work really well as a team.”