Centennial’s softball team will have at least one thing going for it when it opens Class 4A state tournament play today: experience.
The Bulldogs are no stranger to the state’s biggest stage, having won the state title in 2009 and advancing to the final last year.
“I think it’s got to help quite a bit,” Centennial coach Mike Livreri said. “We’ve matured a lot as a team. They’ve been through some tough battles.”
Centennial (30-7) opens play in the double-elimination tournament at 1 p.m. today against Reed (27-5) at UNR’s Hixson Field. Coronado (23-12) and Damonte Ranch (26-12) play at 3. The final is slated for Saturday.
Damonte Ranch’s last trip to state was two years ago. Reed last went in 2009 when it lost to Centennial in the final. Coronado hasn’t been to state since 2006.
The Bulldogs will start at least seven players who participated in last year’s tournament. The starting infield of Mia Acuna, Bailie Nelson, Heather Bowen and Savannah Horvath, outfielders Alyssa Finger and Madison Henzlik and pitchers Taylor Huntly and Kate Rauskin played last year when Centennial won its first two games before falling twice to Palo Verde on the final day.
“We’ve been thinking about that all year,” Livreri said. “That loss left a bad taste in our mouths, and you don’t always get a chance to redeem yourself. We have that chance.”
Kelli Hans, Centennial’s lone senior, will make her third appearance in the state tournament.
Still, Centennial hasn’t traveled north for a state tourney since 2004 when the Bulldogs won the title in Carson City.
“It’s a different challenge going up north,” Livreri said. “It’s a different experience.”
The Bulldogs have faced two of their potential opponents, beating Coronado 13-4 in March and losing 7-3 to Damonte Ranch in the Spring Jamboree tournament in early April.
“I like the familiarity there,” Livreri said. “I think it’s a real talented field, and you like to at least have seen your opponent.”
Coronado isn’t quite walking in blind, despite its six-year hiatus.
Cougars coach Melissa Krueger was an assistant at Foothill when the Falcons played in the state tournament in 2009.
And three Coronado players - seniors Alyssa Ayers and Lee Harrison and junior Alex Battest - were a part of the Henderson International team that won the Class 1A state title in 2010.
“Alyssa and Lee have talked about what that meant to them and what it would mean to go back,” Krueger said.
The Cougars have had a bit of a streaky season, winning nine straight before dropping three of five to end the regular season. Wins in four of their five postseason games might have righted the ship.
“I couldn’t ask for a stronger group of girls to take up there,” Krueger said. “I think we can battle this year.”
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