By DAVE BELCHER
Moapa Valley Progress
Do you believe in miracles? I’ll tell you what, if you are a Moapa Valley High School Softball fan you believe. On Saturday, May 13 the Pirate team shocked nearly everyone by winning the Southern Region softball title.
It has been four years since that has happened. For a long time, Moapa Valley has been the doormat for the feet of Boulder City, and before that Pahrump Valley; always falling short behind one of these two teams.
But the long drought is over. It ended abruptly Saturday when the Pirates beat Pahrump Valley, the #1 seed of the Sunset, twice. And that was after the team had upset the Sunrise #1 seed Boulder City on Friday.
At the beginning of last week, Head Coach Matt Messer knew his band of Pirates had a tough task ahead if they were to make the state tournament this week. There was little expectation of being able taking the South. But the motto of this team was simply, “Why not us?!” And they made it happen.
The magical week began at home on Tuesday, May 9, against Cheyenne, the third seed from the Sunset. It didn’t start particularly well. The Pirates trailed 2-0 and 5-2 before the bottom of the sixth inning.
That’s when the tide changed as the Pirates scored 3 runs to tie the game at 5-5 to start the top of the seventh.
Not shaken by the comeback, Cheyenne scored 4 more runs. Many thought that would spell a trip to the losers bracket, and maybe the end of the dream. But the Pirates tied the game at the bottom of the seventh. Aria Messer then singled home Sierra Harding giving the Pirates the dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Harding finished 4-4 from the plate while Lainey Cornwall finished with a double and a triple. Kaitlyn Anderson finished with a triple and Emilie Barrazza was 3-4 from the plate.
The Pirates travelled to Pahrump Valley on Wednesday for the second game of the tournament.
The game started close. Pahrump Valley took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Moapa Valley tied the game in the top of the second inning. But in the 6th inning a couple of Pirate errors allowed Pahrump to score three runs that gave the Trojans the win.
With this loss the Pirates hosted Mojave where they had a 10-0 lead by the bottom of the fifth.
Mojave came short of a comeback when they scored 8 runs in the final two innings, ending with a 10-8 Pirate victory. This sent Moapa Valley to SECTA where the regional tournament was held.
Thursday the Pirates played Chaparral and set the tone for what was to come in the tournament. The Pirates pounded the ball and ended the game after the fifth inning, 15-5.
With that win, the Pirates would play Boulder City in an elimination game. Boulder City had lost their first round to Pahrump, 5-2.
In that game, down 5-4, the Pirates headed into the top of the sixth with two outs. This is where the magic started. Aria Messer singled, then advanced to second on a single by Cornwall. Kessa Evans then hit a double to right center scoring both Messer and Cornwall and giving the Pirates a 6-5 one-run lead.
That score held to the bottom of the seventh. Boulder City’s lineup started with two all-division players at the plate. They both bunted to place runners on first and second with no outs. The next batter hit a fielder’s choice to third base where Kaitlyn Anderson caught the ground ball taking out the lead runner for the first out. A bloop single loaded the bases.
Barrazza struck out the next hitter for the second out with the bases loaded. The following batter, who was 2-3 on the day, blooped the ball to left field where Harding on the run stretched and caught the ball on the tip of her glove for the final out.
“If she had missed that ball it would have rolled past her and two runs would have scored,” said Messer. “It would have been season over. It was the catch of the year!”
The win placed the Pirates in the state tournament and put them in the region championship game on Saturday where they were up against Pahrump Valley. The Pirates would have to beat the Trojans twice for the region title.
In the first game against Pahrump, the Pirates started out down 5-3 headed into the top of the seventh.
Then Evans doubled to the fence followed by a Barrazza single for runners on first and third. Anderson smashed a hard ground ball to the fence for a triple, scoring Evans and Barrazza and tying the game at 5-5. Harding then singled, scoring Anderson and giving the Pirates a one run lead 6-5.
Barrazza was pitching and was now facing the heart of the Trojans batting order. The next batter popped the ball up to Staheli on second base for the catch. Staheli then threw the second batter out on a ground ball for the second out. Barrazza struck the third batter out for the win.
“It didn’t matter who was at the plate in the final innings, the whole team came up clutch in the situations,” said Coach Messer. “Barrazza did an outstanding job at the mound, she and Stastny kept us in the game with outstanding pitching.”
The second game was for the Region Championshipe. Pahrump Valley built a four-run lead in the first two innings as they scored two in each inning. Moapa Valley would cut the lead in half with 2 runs in the bottom of the third.
Each team scored a run in the fifth for a 5-3 Trojan lead. Does that sound familiar? “I told the girls we have seen this before,” Coach Messer said.
So it was bottom of the seventh with the Pirates down two. Daesha Stastny pinch hit for Riley May and promptly singled. Aria Messer hit a single to right center followed by an Evans single scoring Mortensen. There was one out with runners on first and third.
Barrazza hit a sacrifice fly to center field scoring Messer and tying the game sending it into an extra inning.
Barrazza pitched two 1-2-3- innings against the heart of the Trojan batting order in the top of the seventh and eighth innings.
In the bottom of the eighth, Staheli hit a rope down the third base line for a double. Harding singled placing runners at first and third. Halle Bennett then walked loading the bases.
The top of the Pirate batting order, Aria Messer, stepped to the plate and took three balls. After a time-out Messer took the final pitch that was high, walking her and scoring the championship run, a walk off walk. Let the party begin!
Barrazza went all 8 innings allowing only six hits. Moapa Valley was led by Messer who was 3-4 with an RBI and Evans who was 2-3 with 2 RBI’s.
“The whole team stepped up and were just not going to lose,” said Coach Messer. “It didn’t matter what part of the line-up came to the plate everyone played a part the whole week.”
The state tournament will begin on Thursday night when the Pirates will face the Fernley Vaqueros the second seed from the north. This game will start at 7 PM at Faith Lutheran.
A little about the northern teams. Fernley was the third seed in the northern region tournament. The Vaqueros beat Lowry the second seed 7-3 in the semi-finals ending Lowry’s season. Fallon has marched through the northern region with a 24-0 league record. Fallon beat Fernley twice in the regional tournament, the first game 10-0 and the second 3-2.