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SMALL SCHOOL STATE SOFTBALL: Crusaders’ rally runs out of steam short of I-A final

The hole simply was too deep for Faith Lutheran’s softball team Friday.

That didn’t stop the Crusaders from trying to climb out of it.

Trailing Churchill County 7-2 after two innings in the losers’ bracket final of the Division I-A state tournament at UNLV’s Eller Media Stadium, Faith Lutheran rallied and brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh inning before losing to the Greenwave, 7-5.

Churchill County (26-12), which lost to Fernley (31-8) in the winners’ bracket final earlier in the day, will meet Fernley again at 9 a.m. today for the state title.

“They come back all the time,” Faith Lutheran coach John Chilman said of his players. “The mental toughness of this team is something I haven’t experienced in 20 years of coaching. It’s just awesome.”

After grabbing a 2-0 lead on a run-scoring groundout by Mandy Young and an RBI single by Alex Wright in the first inning, Faith Lutheran committed a costly error in the bottom half that led to four unearned runs.

“We can’t make that many mistakes at the state tournament and hope to win,” Chilman said. “Nine errors over two days just killed us. We just didn’t make the plays.”

Churchill County tacked on three runs in the second and was poised to pull away, but Faith Lutheran senior pitcher Stacie Graham allowed only one hit in her final four innings to give the Crusader a chance to battle back.

A wild pitch and subsequent throwing error by the catcher brought home two runs for Faith Lutheran in the fourth, and Claire Peck’s RBI single scored another in the fifth.

Lauryn Lipe had three hits and Lili Bonora two for Faith Lutheran.

“We’re on the way up,” Chilman said. “I fully expect to be back in the state tournament next year. We have a bright future down the road, a lot to look forward to.”

DIVISION IV

Pahranagat Valley coach Mike Sparrow knows no matter how large a lead is, it’s never safe until the last out is made.

After his team scored six runs in the third inning of the winners’ bracket final of the Division IV state tournament, the Panthers needed every last one to hold off Eureka 8-5 at Rancho High.

Pahranagat Valley (21-4) faces the Vandals again at 10 a.m. today in the championship game at Rancho.

Eureka, which defeated Indian Springs 12-3 in the losers’ bracket final, must beat the Panthers twice to win the title.

Trailing 8-3 entering the seventh inning, the Vandals pushed across two runs with two outs before C.C. Brown came to the plate as the potential tying run. With runners on first and second, Pahranagat Valley starting pitcher Kennedy Huntsman induced a sharp ground ball to third for the game’s final out.

“It really drops the tension when you can get an eight-run lead, because you can play a little more conservative,” Sparrow said. “But you don’t want to get too conservative.”

In the losers’ bracket final, Eureka pounded out 10 hits and took advantage of nine errors to oust Indian Springs.

The Vandals scored four runs in the second and added six in the third. Eureka sent 12 batters to the plate in the third and benefited from four hits, a walk and five errors and two catcher’s interference calls.

Heather Thormahlen had two triples and an RBI for Indian Springs.

In the losers’ bracket semifinal, Heather Thormahlen and Hannah Thormahlen each hit an inside-the-park home run to propel Indian Springs to an 11-3 victory over Smith Valley.

The Thunderbirds, who had 11 stolen bases, broke the game open with a six-run fifth inning.

Hannah Thormahlen went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs, and Heather Thormahlen was 2-for-3 with two stolen bases and two RBIs.

DIVISION III

Dakota Lillard pitched a five-hitter to lead Needles to a 5-3 win over rival Lincoln County in the winners’ bracket final of the Division III state tournament at The Meadows.

Needles (25-8) faces White Pine (28-11), which won twice Friday, in the title game at 10 a.m. today. White Pine must win twice to earn the championship.

“When Dakota’s throwing well, that’s when we’re strongest,” Needles coach Sandy Chandler said.

White Pine, which beat Yerington 5-2 in the day’s first game, then eliminated Lincoln County 12-5 in the last game.

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