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4A STATE: Panthers defend, knock Green Valley out of tourney

RENO — Palo Verde’s softball team could have gotten down after a 4-0 loss to Spanish Springs in the Class 4A state tournament on Friday morning.
Instead, the Panthers got downright defensive.
Bouncing back from the opening-round loss to the Cougars in the double-elimination tournament, Palo Verde was brilliant on defense en route to a 4-0 win over Green Valley in an elimination game Friday afternoon at UNR’s Christina M. Hixson Field.
The Panthers (29-9) will meet Damonte Ranch (22-11) in the losers’ bracket final Saturday at 10 a.m. That winner will face Spanish Springs (33-1) in the title game and will need to beat the Cougars twice to win the state crown.
“When we do everything right, we play well,” Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said. “We played defense, and we hit the ball this afternoon.”
Center fielder Angel Council and right fielder Kristi Jones both made diving catches, the Panthers fittingly ended the game by turning a double play, and the defense handled 28 fielding chances without committing an error.
With strong winds making any ball in the air an adventure, Council made a highlight-reel grab in the third inning, sprinting into right center and catching Shelby Vickers’ blast in mid-dive.
“We got together and we talked more this game,” Council said. “It was more important that we bounced back and played well because now we have a shot at winning state.”
Jones’ snare in right field to end the fifth might have been even better than Council’s stunner.
With runners at first and second, Ali Bodnar hit a looper into right-center. As the wind pushed the ball away from Jones, she dived head first and made the catch inches above the grass for the out.
“I love my outfield,” said Glass, a former standout college outfielder at New Mexico. “It’s all the hard work they’ve been putting in. We just have to play defense.”
The Gators (29-9) had only one runner in the final two innings, and she was erased when shortstop Lauryn Stover started a game-ending double play.
Melissa McCormick tossed a three-hitter, walking three and striking out four, and added a pair of run-scoring, two-out singles for the Panthers.
“Every time we got runners in scoring position, they’d come up with a catch,” said Green Valley assistant coach Greg Taylor, who filled in for his wife Lauren, the team’s head coach. Lauren Taylor gave birth to the couple’s second child Tuesday night. “Missy (McCormick) is a heck of a pitcher. She kept us off-balance.”
Cheryl Iddings’ two-out double in the second plated Erika Stratton with the first run.
Iddings and Council each had two hits for the Panthers, and Council also scored three runs.
Spanish Springs 4, Palo Verde 0 — Spanish Springs’ Karlyn Jones fanned 10 of Palo Verde’s first 12 batters and finished with a two-hitter and 12 strikeouts to help the two-time state champion Cougars win the tournament opener.
Damonte Ranch 9, Green Valley 6 — A three-run top of the first inning sent the Mustangs on their way to victory over the Gators.
Green Valley twice cut the deficit to one run, at 3-2 in the third and 6-5 in the fifth, but both times Damonte Ranch scored three runs in the top of the next inning to push the Gators in a deeper hole.
Alicia Firelein, Desiree Laswell and Carly Smith each went 2-for-4 for Green Valley. Laswell homered and drove in two runs, and Firelein added two doubles and an RBI.

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