RENO – The Cougars are playing for the state championship.
Spanish Springs (27-14) topped Reed (32-4-1) in Friday’s DI state semifinal at Hixson Park, 6-2, to secure a top-two finish and send the Raiders to the loser’s bracket. It was the fifth meeting between the two teams in just 12 days.
The two Rail City squads split the regular season’s final series before the Raiders beat the Cougs twice in last weekend’s DI North tournament. Those losses are all but forgotten now for the Cougs, who will attempt to win their first state title since 2010.
“The goal all year long was to get there on Saturday,” Spanish Springs coach Jeff Davidson said. “The girls made adjustments. We worked hard all week in practice on shortening our stroke … and Hayley (Fein) pitched a great game.”
Fein didn’t let the Raiders even think about mounting a late comeback, retiring the final 10 batters she faced in the complete game victory. She allowed two runs on five hits and did not walk a batter while fanning a pair.
“Hayley pitched a great game,” Davidson said. “She threw with a lot of confidence today and the team supported her defensively. That’s also the key.”
Fein also got the offensive support that was lacking in the previous two losses to Reed. The Cougars mustered just two hits in a pair of shutout losses to Julia Jensen and the Raiders in the regional tourney, but flipped the script on Friday.
Jensen was charged with the loss, allowing six runs on eight hits and three walks. She struck out eight.
“All we did was cut down on our strikeouts,” Davidson said. “That was the key going in.”
With the game tied 2-2 going to the top of the fourth, the Cougars’ No. 7 hitter, Ryan Hauder, laced a two-out, two-run dinger off the scoreboard in left field. It proved to be the game winner.
“That was huge,” Davidson said. “I just told her ‘look away, look away, look away’ and she just happened to get enough.”
Spanish Springs added two more in the sixth to make it 6-2. A Hauder bases-loaded infield single allowed Regan Hubbard to score and Kayleen Garrick lifted a sac fly to center, plating Amidori Anderson.
Reed led early, jumping out to a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the second when pinch runner Ali Hernandez, standing on second, made a wide turn at third on a Mariah Adame ground out to second. She drew a throw to third and elected to safely motor home.
The Cougars responded immediately, taking a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. Courtney Huff ripped an RBI triple to dead center, which tied the game and ended Jensen’s scoreless innings streak in the postseason at 38.1.
Huff didn’t wait on third long, scoring on a Kourtney Townsend RBI groundout that kicked off Jensen to Kenzi Goins at short for a 1-6-3 putout.
In the bottom of the third, Goins tagged from third on shallow pop up to left to tie it at 2-2.
Hauder put the Cougs in front for good in the next half inning.
Spanish Springs, which advanced to the semifinals by edging Shadow Ridge on Thursday, will play Rancho (30-8) at noon on Saturday for the state title at Hixson Park. The Rams, who will have to beat the Cougars twice, throttled Shadow Ridge and Reed on Friday in the loser’s bracket.
Rancho beat Shadow Ridge 12-2 in six innings and Reed, 12-0, in five innings.