It was hard to miss the myriad high school softball players from all over the country who flooded northern Nevada last week.
A total of 78 18-and-under teams competed in the Triple Crown Sports World Series held at facilities ranging from Carson City to Spanish Springs.
One local squad, led by a Spanish Springs standout, won seven-straight elimination games to finish second in the field.
The Nevada Lighting 98 went 4-0 in its pool to advance to the gold bracket before losing its double-elimination opener, 1-0, in nine innings to the Attitude Roadrunners from Northern California.
Down to two pitchers on the team because of injury, Spanish Springs’ Hayley Fein pitched the Lightning to seven-straight victories and a spot in the tournament title game.
“It was phenomenal,” Lightning coach Brad Betker said. “For Hayley to be able to come in there (and dominate). We we’re checking her every game, making sure she’s okay, no back pain, no arm pain.”
Fein made her case to pitch in an eighth-straight game, the title game, but Betker felt he had pushed the reining DI North Pitcher of the Year enough. He instead handed the ball to Galena’s Nicole Renner, whose strong outing was for not in a 3-1 loss to the NorCal Blitz.
“We are really happy because we battled back from the loser’s bracket,” Betker said.
The success, however, was nothing new to the team, which finished last season ranked the No. 2 16-and-under club in the country.
Earlier this summer, at Triple Crown Nationals, the strongest tournament in the nation which accepts just the top 100 teams across the country, the Lightning won the Emerald Bracket (fourth-strongest) in pool play while competing as a 16U team.
“You have to totally qualify to get into the event,” Betker said. “You had to submit a five-page resume with team history–my history as a coach.”
Because all but two of the players on the Lightning’s roster are eligible to play 16U (age on Jan. 1), tournament officials opted to send them into the 16U bracket as opposed to the 18U.
At another massive tournament, the Triple Crown Sparkler Showcase in Westminister, Colo., (the largest national tournament in terms of field size), the Nevada Lightning 98 advanced to the Power Pool (best 64 teams in country) where it proceeded to finish 33rd in front of 300-400 college coaches.
“You start off playing against teams with an absolutely outstanding resume, not one cupcake, not one,” Betker said. “You’re playing against really, really good teams.”
Fein, who will be a senior at Spanish Springs this fall, is verbal committed to California State Monteray Bay, an NCAA Div. II affiliate.
She wrapped up her summer season with the Lightning with a 19-8 record over 30 games with a 2.23 ERA. She struck out 138 batters with only 30 walks.
Nevada Lightning 98 Roster
Alexandra Farrell, Bishop Manogue
Allison Meyer, Douglas
Aubrey Slocum, Galena
Baileigh Loux, Galena
Christie Betker, Reno
Corry Diaz, Douglas
Hailey Merlino, Fernley or Bishop Manogue
Hayley Fein, Spanish Springs
Jamie Romero, North Valleys
Megan Lawson, Bishop Manogue
Nicole Renner, Galena
Rachel Self, Reno