RENO – Just as they were the last three years, the Raiders are regional champions.
Reed (31-3-1) completed a perfect run through the DI North regional tournament on Saturday with a 6-0 win over Spanish Springs (25-14) in the DI North title game at Bishop Manogue.
“You know what, they (regional titles) are all special. But the most current one is always more special,” Reed coach Jon Wunder said. “For a couple of our seniors, this is four for them. That’s pretty darn special.”
Junior ace Julia Jensen was pretty darn special, too.
The Nevada commit struck out 15 in a complete game two hitter. She walked two. It was the cap on a phenomenal weekend for Jensen, who did not allow a single run the entire tournament. She threw 29 shutout innings, scattering four hits, surrendering four free passes, and racking up 48 strikeouts.
“It’s a relief to get this far,” Jensen said. “I was trying to hit my spots. It’s really more of a defensive thing than me. My defense played really great and our hitting backed it up.”
She took a 20.1 hitless innings streak (no hitters against McQueen and Spanish Springs on Friday) into the top of the third when Ryan Hauder laced a single up the middle to start the inning.
The Cougars’ second and final hit didn’t come until the top of the sixth. Kourtney Townsend hit a line drive down the right field line for a single. She was left at first.
“Julia has been fantastic this tournament,” Spanish Springs coach Jeff Davidson said. “We made a few adjustments but not enough. That’s something we have to work in practice next week, put the ball in play to give us an opportunity. We weren’t doing that the two times we faced her this week.”
The Raiders needed eight innings to beat the Cougars on Friday in the winner’s bracket, 1-0, and it appeared Saturday’s title game was going in a similar direction. The scoreboard showed zeros for both teams until the bottom of the fifth, when Reed broke it open.
With one out and runners on first and second, Alysha Imperato smacked an RBI double down the left field line. Kenzi Goins, the hero on Friday against Spanish Springs, scored from second. Alexis Gonzalez then stepped to the plate and served a single to center, allowing pinch runner Gabby Kahl, and Imperato, to score and grow the Raiders’ lead to 3-0.
“Hits are contagious, kind of like errors,” Wunder said. “All you have to do usually is give Julia a couple runs and she’s pretty good. When you’re playing a good team, no lead is safe so you have to keep the pressure on.”
Two batters later, Mackenzie Howren singled to end Hayley Fein’s day. Fein was charged with four runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out four. She gave way to Amidori Anderson who conceded a bases loaded walk to Carla Hernandez, extending the gap to 4-0. Anderson struck out the following batter to end the inning.
“Hayley’s pitched great. They were timing her right there so I figured ‘that is all right, we still have next week,’” Davidson said.
The Raiders added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth on anther Gonzalez single to center that drove in Kahl and Imperato.
It’s now on to state for both squads. Reed will be the No. 1 DI North seed at Hixson Park on Nevada’s campus next week. Spanish Springs, which earned a spot in the title game by beating Douglas Saturday morning, will be the No. 2 DI North seed.
The Cougars open against Shadow Ridge (28-5), the Sunset region champ, on Thursday at 2 p.m.
The Raiders will start their state title defense against Rancho (28-7), the Sunrise region champ, immediately after at 4:30 p.m.
“Every year is a new year,” Jensen said. “We have to come in with a whole new set of challenges and overcome (them) and play with this year’s team, not think about what happened last year. The experience is great but we need to deliver this year.”
Success in the regional tournament was nothing new for Jensen. In last year’s run, she threw 26 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on 12 hits. She struck out 41 and walked two. The last two tournament combined, she’s allowed one earned run in 55 innings (a 0.12 ERA) on 16 hits with 89 strikeouts and six walks … Reed was without junior starting catcher Rheanna Smith, who tore several ligaments in her knee at the end of the final practice before the tournament on Wednesday. She will not play at state either. Ryia Grant took over the catching duties. “Ryia stepped up behind the plate … she’s done a phenomenal job,” Wunder said. … Wunder made specific mention of his bench following Friday’s win over Spanish Springs and Saturday’s as well. “Our bench is nine deep and they were loud and they picked up the kids throughout the day. It’s a total team win.” … The last time the state tournament was held at Hixson Park, in 2014, Reed and Spanish Springs were both in the field as well. The Raiders came up through the loser’s bracket and forced the ‘if necessary’ game for the state title but fell to Palo Verde, 12-8. The Cougars fell to Foothill and Reed, both losses were by the score of 5-3.
Spanish Springs 7, Douglas 4
The Cougars punched their second trip to state in three years with a 7-4 win over Douglas in the loser’s bracket semifinal Saturday morning at Bishop Manogue.
The wire-to-wire win came on the heels of a tough 1-0 walk off loss to Reed in eight innings on Friday afternoon.
“It (state) was our goal this year,” Davidson said. “We had ups and downs and we battled. We played well enough and that’s what it’s all about, just getting there. And anything can happen once you’re there.”
When Davidson says ‘ups and downs,’ he isn’t kidding. The Cougars have had anything but a smooth ride this year, from a season-ending injury to senior captain Bailey Ivory early in the year to a couple head scratching losses.
Still, Spanish Springs’ skipper says he never lost faith his team could be one of the last four standing in the state.
“We have seven sophomores on the team but our leaders (Ivory, Fein and Townsend) were strong,” Davidson said. “They kept telling them ‘everything is going to be alright. Just play hard, play hard.’ And we came together as a team and played well at the end.”
The Cougars jumped out to a 6-3 lead after three innings before Fein and Douglas pitcher Kettja Bennett settled in.
The Tigers pulled within two runs in the top of the fourth on a one-out Mackenzie Brixey RBI single. Fein got the next two batters to end the frame.
The 6-4 score held until the bottom of the sixth when Courtney Huff gave Fein an insurance run. The sophomore shortstop drove a two-out, two-strike delivery right back up the box for an RBI single, driving in Hauder from third. Hauder reached on an error to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a throwing error and moved to third on a Kayleen Garrick sac bunt.