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Strategy backfires on Gators as Foothill rallies for victory

The plan made sense at the time.

With the Green Valley softball team clinging to a one-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday, Gators coach Lauren Taylor instructed her pitcher to intentionally walk Shelbie Medrano, Foothill’s top hitter.

Right-hander Alicia Firelein complied, but the move backfired.

Kylie Ishikawa’s RBI single tied the score at 6 moments later, and freshman Rhiana Balaun drove in the eventual game winner with a soft liner to left field to lift the Falcons to a 7-6 win in the championship game of the Sunrise Region tournament at Majestic Park.

It was the second consecutive regional title for Foothill, which gained a berth in next week’s state tournament. Green Valley will play Centennial on Monday to determine the tourney’s final Southern Nevada representative.

“I just heard everyone trying to pump me up,” said Balaun, who noted that her clutch hit was among the biggest of her career. “I hit when I get pumped up, and that’s what happened.”

Medrano, who beat Firelein with a homer earlier in the tournament, said she stepped to the plate hoping for another big hit.

“When I got walked, I was kind of disappointed,” said Medrano, who belted two homers Wednesday and one Thursday. “But I knew they did it out of respect. Fortunately, (Ishikawa and Balaun) came through.”

The inning negated a frantic rally by Green Valley, which grabbed its first lead at 6-4 in the sixth with the help of two Foothill errors and a two-run homer by Lace Jordan.

Firelein appeared to be in control to open the bottom of the inning, when she retired the first two batters she faced. But the Falcons’ Myranda Mortel followed by legging out an infield single, and Rosie Ritchie drove her in with a double to left field.

That’s when the Gators elected to walk Medrano.

“That walk just brought up our second-best RBI hitter,” said Foothill coach Tom Mayes, whose squad also beat Green Valley to win the 2008 championship. “Ishikawa hits (cleanup) for a reason.”

Medrano, whose team got away with six errors, gave up a leadoff single to open the seventh before settling down to retire the side.

Green Valley 11, Las Vegas 4 — Ali Bodnar went 3-for-4 with a double in the semifinal game to help lift the Gators into the championship game.

Green Valley scored five runs in the first three innings and capped its 12-hit attack with a two-run homer by Carly Smith in the fifth.

Shelby Vickers went 2-for-4 for the Gators, who won despite committing seven errors.

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