Las Vegas relishes challenge

Even after winning the Northeast Division softball title, Las Vegas High had plenty to prove.

The Northeast isn’t exactly a power conference in the sport, but when the Wildcats rallied to win last week’s Sunrise Regional tournament, they proved how strong they were.

“It showed them that even though we come from a division that isn’t considered the strongest in the city, it showed that we can play with anyone on a given day and that we deserve it,” Las Vegas coach Tresa Schilder said. “We are legit, and we can come through and play and compete with any other teams in town.”

Another challenge awaits as the Wildcats begin play in the Class 4A state tournament Friday at Stephanie Lynn Craig Park.

“I’m so excited,” Las Vegas shortstop Tiffini Lucero said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Las Vegas (21-6) will face Northern Regional champion Spanish Springs (32-1) at 3 p.m. Friday. Sunset champ Shadow Ridge (26-5) will play Sunrise runner-up Foothill (22-16) at 3 in the other first-round game.

Spanish Springs has posted a 67-5 record the last two years, advancing to the state title game last season. Pitcher Mallary Darby is 40-2 in those two years, including 18-0 with a 0.44 ERA this season.

The Cougars will face a Las Vegas team that got a boost of confidence by winning the regional. The Wildcats had to win three straight on the final day to capture the crown.

“Right there we proved to ourselves that we deserved to be in that spot and that we deserved to win,” senior third baseman Darleen Fernandez said. “We can work hard and accomplish our goals and make everything happen.”

Mistakes and errors often are magnified during the postseason, but Fernandez said defense has been a strength all season.

“Defense is something we never have to worry about,” Fernandez said. “It was always pinpoint. Defense is our bread and butter.

“Solid defense is going to keep us in tight games.”

Schilder hopes a strong pitching duo of Jennifer Gliddon and Tajia Law will help, too.

“Not many teams have pitchers that can pitch in any situation that we need them to,” Schilder said. “Fortunately we do have Jennifer and Tajia. I could start either one of them and have all the confidence in the world.”

Foothill and Shadow Ridge are surprise state tournament teams.

The Falcons didn’t get to .500 until the third week of April when they rallied to beat Green Valley 12-10 to move to 13-13.

“We were down eight runs against Green Valley the second time we played them,” Foothill coach Tom Mayes said. “We ended up winning that one, 12-10. From there, we’ve just been going. We seem to be a little more relaxed and not putting as much pressure on ourselves.”

Pitcher Shantel Straily has helped keep the Falcons in games all season, posting a 15-8 record with a 0.76 ERA.

Shadow Ridge counters with a talented pitcher in Mandy Harmon (14-3, 1.08 ERA).

Harmon retired 20 of the final 21 batters as the Mustangs, who finished third in the Northwest Division, rallied to win the Sunset Regional title game.

“Mandy pitched brilliantly,” Shadow Ridge coach Cynthia Winter said.

All four teams will play again at 5 p.m. today. The tournament will continue at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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