By Breven Honda
The Virgin Valley High School softball team has been riding a wave and have been surfing it for most of the season.
Since being shut out on March 5, top-ranked Virgin Valley has not lost a game since, highlighted by winning their 31st consecutive game at the 3A Southern Regional championship on May 13 in a 13-0 victory against Boulder City.
“It feels good,” Virgin Valley head coach Travis Griffiths said after the tournament on May 17. “It was fun to watch them perform. Yeah, feels good.”
With the tournament structured in a double-elimination format, the Bulldogs had to take down Boulder City, not once but twice.
Two days before the regional tournament finale, Virgin Valley junior Riley Price was in an unforeseen situation as she gave up six runs through the first three innings against Boulder City. However, the offense found a spark late by scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take an 8-6 lead and held on for the comeback victory.
“We got down a little bit and they just kept battling back and, in that game, she went seven innings,” Griffiths said of Price. “She actually got a little bit stronger as she moved through the game. So, I think she became more determined.”
Following the victory on Wednesday, the Bulldogs knew they had to take down the Eagles one final time two days later.
The mentality going into Friday’s championship game, with the opportunity to win the tournament, came with a heightened focus to win the game.
“The young ladies became more determined at that point in time,” Griffiths said. “They dug deep and a little bit more out there and they were more determined in going out and playing the way they know they can play.”
On Friday, the Bulldogs went out and executed both offensively and defensively by putting up a baker’s dozen worth of runs and committing no errors after three mistakes in the scorebook the game before.
During the course of the four-game playoff run, three of the four errors came during the 8-6 win over the Eagles. Griffiths said the defense was something they worked on prior to first pitch on Friday..
“Most of those errors came in that close game against Boulder and that hurt us, so we really worked that day before the last game,” Griffiths said. “We really worked on our defense and tried to clean things up and they really came and cleaned things up.
“They played great on Friday and took care of bunts, took care of everything and so our girls have to be commended for their effort and for what they accomplished.”
After getting into a groove following six runs in three innings two days before, Price continued that groove from where she left off, giving up one hit through the five-inning mercy rule 13-0 win. Price, who recorded her 18th complete game of the season, improved her record to 27-1 and lowered her ERA to 0.54.
In order for Price to pitch three consecutive games, including a 15-0 three-inning win on May 10 over No. 5 Pahrump Valley in the tournament semifinals of the winner’s portion of the bracket, Virgin Valley took a chance for the junior to get a breather for the rest of the playoff run.
The bet paid off as Griffiths went with sophomore Reggei Frei to take the mound on May 9 in a 19-4 win over Sunrise Mountain. The game took three innings as the Bulldogs took advantage of nine errors from Sunrise Mountain by scoring eight in the first inning and 11 in the second.
Griffiths said Frei coming in to throw the first game of the playoff run established some depth to the pitching staff behind Price in order for her to be ready for the rest of the playoff run.
“That’s huge for us because it gave Riley one extra day to not have to throw,” Griffiths said. “Most of those other teams had to throw their best player. It gave us an extra day and that’s what we talked about Reggei giving us that game was huge for Riley to have that extra day.”
Not only has Frei made an impact in the circle, but also at the plate and defensively at shortstop.
This season, the sophomore has recorded 32 RBIs, 3 home runs, 63 hits, a 3A league-leading 62 runs, a perfect 36-of-36 on her stolen base attempts and an .883 fielding percentage.
“She’s been amazing,” Griffiths said of Frei. “(Her offensive production is) in addition to her defensive work at shortstop and her pitching, so she’s been amazing this year.”
Now, Frei and her teammates prepare for the 3A State tournament with a matchup against the North Valleys Panthers (21-5), who have played most of their opponents against the 3A North-West teams.
First pitch between the Bulldogs and Panthers in slated for May 19 at 4:30 p.m. at Fernley High School in Reno, the site of the 3A State tournament.
Griffiths said making the state tournament was an early season goal for the Bulldogs as they look to go after a second championship and more success.
“That’s kind of been our goal from the beginning of the year,” Griffiths said. “We kept plugging along and that was our goal, so it’s good to be able to continue with that goal. I know we’re excited to go up and play. Also, wanting to respect our opponents and making sure that we work hard and do everything we can to be successful up there.”
Win or lose, Virgin Valley will play the following day as it is a double elimination state tournament. On Friday, they either face Fernley or Boulder City.
The championship game is May 21 at 10 a.m.