By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
The shoe fit last year for the Moapa Valley High School Varsity Softball team. They went on a Cinderella run through the postseason and avenged both of their former foils; Pahrump and Boulder City; to get there.
As the Pirates made the 2017 state tournament, excitement was higher than ever. But they didn’t end up with that championship they wanted. In 2018, the team isn’t satisfied with anything less.
The Pirates return seven starters from last year’s team. A few seniors moved on, including starting pitcher Daesha Stastny. Filling her shoes will be junior Emilie Barraza. Moapa head coach Matt Messer is confident in Barraza’s ability to step up to the mound and lead the team.
“Emilie started to pitch more as the season wore on last year, and in the playoffs she played in some big games for us,” Messer said. “We feel like we will be able to hand it over to her. She’s pretty talented so we’re excited about her.”
This year’s squad features three seniors: Kessa Evans, as catcher, and outfielders Sierra Harding and Aria Messer.
“Kessa Evans is a returning first team All-State player,” Messer said. “She’s going to be a team leader. Aria has responded well to hitting coaching and we also expect a lot out of Sierra Harding. She is a possible leadoff hitter which could be new for her.”
While the seniors will play a major role in the team’s leadership, one thing Messer emphasized was that this team is better-rounded than many you might come across.
“What’s funky about this team is there are no stars,” Messer said. “They’re just a bunch of girls who like to play hard and play together. We should be pretty athletic and fast but I think we will be pretty all-around. As we’ve gone through certain things, they have picked them up quick this year.”
With talent shining through in all areas of the game, the Pirates have little reason to believe they won’t find success this season. Outside of the seniors, the team also boasts talent at the younger levels, including sophomores Kaitlyn Andersen and Abbie Evans, who returns from injury. Sierra Staheli and Lainey Cornwall will play a major role in keeping the infield play held up as well.
“They’re all leaders and just take care of business which is really nice,” Messer said.
If there is any obstacle that could trip the Pirates up it might only be their mentality. If they’re able to master the mental side of the game, the team has little to no weaknesses to exploit. Shaking off high expectations and last season’s finish will go into staying focused this year.
“We have some pretty high expectations this year,” Messer said. “Anytime you have success, it brings expectations; not just with coaches but with everybody.”
“I think the biggest thing is to not be comfortable with what we did last year and not let it be defining,” Messer added. “Our job is to get back to state and compete more than we did last year. They’re not complacent; that’s just not the type of girls they are.”
The Pirates will get their season going with the Desert Winds Tournament this weekend. In their first game, Messer explained that the Pirates will be taking on the winner of the tournament for recent consecutive years. However, the Pirates welcome the challenge.
“We want to play the best!” Messer said.
This season seems to be the perfect storm for the Pirates to make a run at a state tournament title. If they can stay locked in and improve as the season rolls, this could be the year the Pirates strike.