Gators claim Northeast League title

Green Valley softball coach Lauren Taylor refused to consider the possibility that her team might lose Thursday.

After watching her team in Wednesday’s practice and seeing her players during the school day, the veteran Gators’ coach felt confident a Northeast League title was in her sights.

She couldn’t have been more right.

The Gators put together one of their best efforts of the season Thursday, getting fantastic pitching from Fenixx Henderson and an offensive explosion, to rout host Las Vegas, 10-1.

“We were pumped all day yesterday at practice, and we were pumped all day today,” Taylor said. “I think they knew what was at stake today.”

Had the Gators lost, they would have fallen into a four-way tie for first place and would have been the Northeast’s No. 4 seed in next week’s Sunrise Region tournament.

Instead, the Gators (19-9, 8-2 Northeast) are the league’s top seed and will host Liberty in a first-round game at 4 p.m. Monday.

“The alternative was not something we were going to accept as a program,” Taylor said.

Las Vegas (16-9, 6-4) fell to the league’s No. 4 seed and will visit Southeast champion Coronado at 4 p.m. Monday.

Henderson, who one-hit the Wildcats on April 16, allowed just two hits and struck out nine.

Las Vegas didn’t hit a ball past the pitcher’s circle until Kristina Nelson’s fly to center for the second out of the fourth inning.

“Fenixx really is a presence on the mound,” Taylor said. “The movement that kid has on her pitches, the variation in speed, it keeps batters on their toes. Fenixx was able to just command.”

By then, Green Valley had built a 5-0 lead.

Henderson drove in the first two runs on a two-out single in the first and a double in the third. Megan Barrera tacked on a two-run single in the fourth.

And the Gators’ offense was only getting started.

Green Valley pounded out 16 hits. Maggie Manwarren was 4-for-5 with three runs and an RBI. Barrera finished 3-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI, and Cori Sutton, Henderson and Anysa Calderon each had two hits.

“We’ve had high and low spots throughout our season,” Taylor said. “You have to walk the walk and not talk the talk, and I’m hoping that today showed us that this is where we belong.

“We belong in that No. 1 spot. To take that into next week is key.”

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

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