By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
With just two league games remaining, the Pirates had a few formalities to take care of last week before locking down the top seed in the Sunrise league and an opportunity to host a playoff game. With Boulder City now hot on their tails, the Pirates needed wins to ensure everything went to plan. However, with one of the games coming in a road rivalry setting, things wouldn’t necessarily be easy.
The Pirates traveled to Mesquite to start the week Monday with their second rivalry game against the Bulldogs. Virgin Valley would be chasing a higher playoff seed and bragging rights with their rivals.
But the Bulldogs trailed 4-1 after the first two innings. It would be in the third inning that the Pirates exploded with eight runs to seal up a 12-1 victory.
Among the highlights in that third inning would be a remarkably timely Emilie Barraza grand slam, which accompanied her already impressive performance on the mound. Abbie Evans also finished with a home run and two RBIs of her own and Kaitlyn Anderson added a triple. This win all but sealed the regular season division title for the Pirates.
In order to officially do so, however, Moapa Valley needed a home win against the SECTA Roadrunners on Wednesday. It would be the last home regular season game of the year, as if the team needed more motivation.
Clearly they didn’t. Lainey Cornwall’s pair of doubles and three RBIs helped lead her Pirates to a 16-0 win. The Pirates officially finished the season as the team to beat on their side of the Southern Region.
While the regular season ended, the Pirates had one more game on the schedule. That one came against fellow small town rival Pahranagat Valley from Alamo. The Panthers came in looking to put up a fight against a team from the league above them, and a talented one to say the least. However, as the sixth inning came along, the Pirates held a 6-0 lead. The Panthers scored twice to cut the deficit, but the Pirates responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the same inning to make it 7-2.
Barraza finished the game strong and would lock down the 7-2 victory to end the season. Barraza would finish with five strikeouts as well. An Aria Messer home run, and three hits by senior Sierra Harding, led Moapa statistically, and obviously helped ease the team to their final win of the regular season.
Last season there were many that might have considered the Pirates as a second fiddle to a dynastic Boulder City team. This year, though, the power has shifted in Moapa Valley’s favor.
What was different? Aria Messer, a senior, used four words to describe her team: talented, gritty, determined, and confident.
“Our consistency, depth, and close relationships with every one of my teammates will take us far,” Aria said. “We always expect the best out of each other and it keeps us balanced.”
Lainey Cornwall, a junior, explained what she thought set this year’s group apart. “We were more confident this year and knew what we had to do to win,” she said. “I think we were more focused at practice in order to get better at the things we needed to improve.”
The Pirates stand just a few wins away from another berth in the state tournament. Except this year expectations are for Moapa Valley to be holding the prize. The team is confident enough to make that expectation turn to reality.