Bulldogs hope parallels to 2009 end with another softball title

Centennial softball coach Mike Livreri has vivid memories of his team's 2009 Class 4A state title. And lately, those memories have come flooding back.

Everywhere Livreri looks, there's a stark comparison between the Bulldogs' title team and this year's squad that opens play in the state tournament Friday at UNLV's Eller Media Stadium.

"It's deja vu all over again," Livreri said. "I see it in a lot of ways."

Centennial (24-12), which won Monday's play-in game against Liberty to secure the final state bid, will face Sunrise Region champion Foothill (22-11) at 2 p.m. Sunset champion Palo Verde (29-8) meets Northern Region champion Bishop Manogue in the first game at noon. The title game is set for noon Saturday.

For Centennial, the parallels between this season and 2009 are scary.

The Bulldogs struggled with Sunset Region champion Shadow Ridge, losing every game to the Mustangs until the teams met in the winners' bracket final of the state tournament. This year's team has lost all five matchups with Sunset champion Palo Verde, which could meet Centennial in the winners' bracket final Friday night.

Centennial needed a two-run rally in the final inning to defeat Green Valley in the 2009 state play-in game. On Monday, Heather Bowen's one-out single completed a two-run seventh-inning rally as the Bulldogs beat Liberty.

The Bulldogs' first state opponent in 2009 also was Foothill.

"We're facing it the same way we faced it in 2009," Livreri said. "They let us in; we're coming to crash the party."

Also like the 2009 team, the Bulldogs have a potent offense. They've scored 10 or more runs in 17 games this season.

But the one major difference is the team's age. The Bulldogs' last state champions had an infield full of seniors and a senior pitcher.

This year's squad starts freshmen Savannah Horvath and Bowen on the left side of the infield and sophomores Bailie Nelson and Mia Acuna on the right side. The pitchers are sophomores Taylor Huntly and Katelynn Rauskin.

"This is a lot younger team, but they're full of energy, and they're really contributing," senior catcher Kylie Bartlett said. Bartlett and classmate Mikayla Djordjevic started on the 2009 team. "If we just take everything slow and play like we can, we'll be very successful."

Centennial is the only Southern Nevada school to win the Class 4A state title in softball. Palo Verde advanced to state last season, and Foothill's last trip to state came in 2009. Bishop Manogue is making its first state tournament appearance.

With 2010 champion Spanish Springs failing to advance to state, the tournament has no clear-cut favorite.

"We just need to play solid defense and just string hits together, and it will pull us through eventually," Djordjevic said.

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.