Rod Rundle well remembers a thought that crossed the minds of Yerington High School softball coaches Thursday afternoon at the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A State Softball Tournament in Mesquite.
A premonition that the Lions' 2-1 loss in eight innings to Spring Creek in the opening round just might have been the tournament's championship game.
They had a valid point, as it turned out, because Yerington battled all the way back through the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament and earned a rematch in the championship round on Saturday. Spring Creek won once again, this time by a 5-1 score to capture the second state softball championship in school history (the Spartans also won in 1996).
"That first loss to Spring Creek was a tough one," Rundle said. "Once you get into that losers bracket, it's a long way to come back. We had to play six games and Spring Creek had to play four. That was tough on our kids because it was hot ... mid-90s down there."
The Lions (27-7) reeled off four straight victories to earn their rematch with Spring Creek (36-4-1) - and the tournament's runner-up trophy.
Later on Thursday, Yerington rode the pitching of Amy Sceirine to an 11-1 triumph against a White Pine team that entered the tournament as the Division III champion.
Then on Friday, the Lions rallied to beat Fernley, 5-3. Fernley put up three runs on no hits in the first inning, but Yerington pitcher Sherry Conway held the Vaqueros scoreless the rest of the way. Conway, who had allowed just five hits in the opening round loss to Spring Creek, fired a two-hitter at Fernley, and then picked up her second win of the day by eliminating Bishop Manogue, 9-2.
That last win was especially satisfying to the Lions, who had absorbed two losses to Manogue in the Division II tournament one week before in Reno.
"We had Manogue in the second game last week. We were up 8-0 and ended up losing the game, 9-8," Rundle said. "But our girls didn't let last week bother them."
Freshman Hillary Vaughn delivered a key hit against Manogue. After fouling off seven pitches, she then doubled down left field line to drive two runs home and help break open the contest.
Conway pitched again Saturday morning and the Lions scored 10 runs in the fourth inning to post a 12-2 victory over Pahrump Valley in the losers bracket final. And the senior pitcher asked for the ball to start in the championship round rematch with Spring Creek.
"Sherry is a big strong girl who throws hard, and she wanted the ball," Rundle said, adding that the coaches had clocked her at 60 mph on the radar gun. "She had brought us that far, we felt she deserved the right to carry it on. Sherry threw well in that last game; she just ran out of gas in sixth inning.
"Spring Creek is just a quality team and (Kelli) Miller is a quality pitcher."
The performance in Mesquite was all the more rewarding after last year, when the Lions won 27 games before being knocked out of the postseason with a Division II tournament loss to rival Dayton.
"Last year we thought we should have got to state, this year we did," Rundle said. "Our girls earned the right to get there. we beat some good teams at state.
"Over the last two years, these girls have compiled a 54-13 record, which I think is pretty outstanding. They were 27-7 this year; four of those losses were to Spring Creek, two were to Manogue and one was to Fernley."
Sceirine and Conway were co-MVP recipients in Division II, while outfielder Annalee Hatcher, shortstop Letitia Talbot and catcher Michelle Sinclair were selected first-team all-division. Outfielders Mindy Foley and Kendall Castellani were second-team picks and Rundle was named the division's coach of the year.
"I was honored to be able to associate myself with these kids," Rundle said.