RENO - Centennial's softball team certainly didn't lack motivation Saturday.
The Bulldogs vividly remembered how it felt last year when they lost twice to Palo Verde in the Class 4A state final.
And if they needed even more inspiration, they simply glanced to their bench to see teammate Kassidy Merritt, who is courageously battling cancer.
Suddenly resurgent bats were simply a bonus.
Centennial pounded 31 hits in nine innings to defeat Coronado 13-3 and 11-0 in two five-inning games at UNR's Hixson Field and capture the school's third 4A softball title.
"We knew we had to do this for each other - and mainly for Kass," said shortstop Heather Bowen, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in the opener and 3-for-3 with three doubles and two RBIs in the second game. "The ball just looked really big to me today."
She wasn't alone. Maddie Henzlik compiled five hits on the day, Savannah Horvath and Lauren Stroman four each, and Alyssa Finger and Taylor Huntly three apiece.
"I actually had a dream last night that we would run-rule them," Finger said. "We all woke up today and said we were going to do it. Today was all about Kass. It helped all of us."
The victories also erased the painful memory from last spring, when Centennial (34-8) was in the position Coronado (25-14) was in this year - needing to win only once to capture the title.
"Last year, it just left a sick feeling in your stomach," Centennial coach Mike Livreri said. "We were close to not having another chance in this tournament. The girls were hungry. We had a lot riding on this."
The first two innings of the day set the tone, as Centennial jumped on Coronado pitcher Danielle Amato for nine hits to lead 7-0.
"They came out and hit," Coronado coach Melissa Krueger said. "They're the No. 1 team in the state, and they showed it today. They represented the south well."
Coronado never got back into the first game, despite a Lee Harrison homer.
A four-run uprising in the bottom of the first in the nightcap showed that Centennial's offense wasn't going away. Henzlik's RBI single started the run-scoring parade.
Coronado had chances to score, but Centennial barred the door with strong defense. Horvath ended the third inning by turning a double play at third base, and Lacie Chakos made a fine catch in left field to start the fourth.
"We played hard, but we just ran out of gas," Krueger said. "My team played hard all year. These girls had a great year. They deserved to be here."
Centennial's seven-run fourth sealed the outcome, with Stroman's two-run homer making the score 11-0.
Kate Rauskin pitched a five-hitter in the opener, and Huntly threw a six-hitter in the nightcap.
"This is a million times better than last year," Finger said. "Now we're smiling and not crying."
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5230.