By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
Going into this season, the Moapa Valley High School softball team had goals to accomplish. Last week served as a stepping stone towards those aspirations. And while that stone was unsteady and the team saw their season come to a close, the year was not only highlighted with more highs than lows, it also cast great optimism for the near future.
In their regional playoff run, the Pirates started the week with three home games.
The first of these came on Tuesday against Desert Pines. The Jaguars never really had a chance. The Pirates jumped out with a thirteen run second inning. The game would end before seeing a fourth inning, with a final score of 18-2. A triple by Abbie Evans and doubles courtesy of Hanna Mortensen and Sierra Staheli led the way.
In their second game, the Pirates took on the Mojave Rattlers and the onslaught continued. The Rattlers couldn’t even get around the bases in the game before Moapa had won by ten-run rule. An 11-0 final score sent the Pirates one game from a trip to the state tournament. Triples by Kessa Evans and Kaitlyn Anderson were the highlights in this game.
Standing between Moapa Valley and their second straight year going to the state tournament was the Boulder City Eagles who the Pirates faced on Thursday.
Going into the top of the third, things were still tied up at Moapa Valley. With two outs down in the inning, the Eagles bounced back, rattling off five runs on the shoulders of a three score home run by Lily Osman.
In the bottom of the same inning, the bottom of Moapa’s lineup showed up with answers. A bases loaded double by Kaitlyn Anderson that scored all three baserunners was the highlight of the inning.
Going into the fourth, it was tied up once more.
Trailing in the fifth 6-5, the Pirates put together a two out rally of their own, scoring three times to lead 8-6.
In the sixth, the Eagles continued the back and forth sway of the game, getting hot to lead 11-8. Then the Boulder City team added insurance in the seventh to make it 12-8.
Unfortunately, the Pirates could never get hot again after seeing their lead diminish. Boulder City would advance to the regional final.
“I think we had a few errors and our defense sort of let us down,” said Pirate Head coach Matt Messer. “Plays we had made all year became difficult for us. Our normally solid defense struggled a bit and I don’t know if it was just nerves or what it was exactly.”
“Good teams put pressure on you at the plate, just like we did towards them, and you have to be able to respond” Messer added.
Luckily, the Pirates would have another shot to get to the state tournament a day later. This time the game was played at a neutral site against the Pahrump Valley Trojans.
Leading 1-0 going into the third, the Pirates felt good. Then everything took a turn that Moapa Valley couldn’t have predicted or bounced back from. The Trojans rattled off thirteen runs in the third inning and turned the game upside down.
The Pirates never bounced back and the final score would be 15-6. Moapa Valley’s season of high hopes had come to an end.
“Emilie (Barraza) was pitching really well but got squeezed a little with her strike zone,” Messer said. “Pahrump has very patient hitters and when she wasn’t getting spots, she had to send a fastball down the middle and they did a great job squaring up and hitting.”
Despite the less than desirable inning, the Pirates did perform a great game, Messer said.
“I’ll give the girls credit, they didn’t quit,” he said. “If you take out that inning, we win 6-2. But sometimes that happens. They just kept scoring and there was nothing we could do.”
With eyes now set on next year, Messer and his coach staff have their sites set on improving where necessary to ensure next year’s team can accomplish this year’s goals. As of right now, two main positions are of need.
“We are going to need a little bit more pitching depth behind Emilie,” Messer said. “She’s definitely our number one, but what hurt us that year is not having a number two girl who we can throw in for a change of pace.”
Another spot to replace will be behind the plate. Long time Moapa Valley catcher Kessa Evans is graduating. Fellow seniors Sierra Harding and Aria Messer graduate as well, leaving a gap in left center field.
“Sierra is just a solid bat for us, Kessa is our fiery leader, and Aria is an athlete in the outfield that saves a lot of runs,” Messer said. “It’ll be tough to replace all three of them.”
With some ideas on how to make adjustments in the outfield, Messer pointed to catcher and depth in the hypothetical bullpen as locations of need this offseason.
“I think we have some capable girls coming up in the program and some serious leadership and athletes coming back,” he said. “We get our top pitcher back.”
“Their expectations were high this year and I think the girls coming back will have those same expectations.” Messer added.
The Pirates are hoping next year’s team can turn those expectations to reality, after this year’s team set the precedent for what is to come.