Riley Price delivers a pitch in the 3A State Tournament in Fernley. (Stephen Bell photo)

By Breven Honda

The Virgin Valley High School softball team is in the midst of the state championship window that did not start and end this season, but the opportunity looms for at least the next couple of years.

Despite one senior on the team and the core primarily involving sophomores and juniors, head coach Travis Griffiths, who wrapped up his ninth season at the 3A NIAA state tournament, came up just short – literally – of winning it all.

After defeating the host school, Fernley, in the winner’s final of the double elimination bracket, by a score of 2-1 on May 20, Virgin Valley met them the next day in the championship game, needing to win once to be the state champions.

The Bulldogs lost the first game, 6-2, on May 21, going to a winner take all championship game. Minutes after the loss, which ended a 33-game winning streak that began on March 8, the team had to regroup and prepare for another opportunity to go after a state title.

The Fernley Vaqueros jumped out to a 7-2 lead after the first three innings of play.

However, Griffiths and the Bulldogs were not going to go down without a fight and Virgin Valley started their quest for a comeback. The Bulldogs got a run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings without allowing a run.

Then came the seventh inning and after plating a run to cut the deficit down to one, Virgin Valley could not quite pull off a comeback to remember, losing 7-6.

Reggie Frei of Virgin Valley High leads off second in the 3A State Tournament in Fernley. (Stephen Bell photo)

Griffiths said the emotions of the final four innings gave him the belief his team was going to have a storybook ending.

“I felt at that point when they got that last out, I felt like we were going to get it done and I felt like the girls were going to get the lead,” Griffiths said. “I felt like they had kind of settled down and they would have got the last three outs of the seventh inning. I felt like we were going get the victory.”

Despite not coming out on top, Griffiths said he was pleased that his players competed to the last out and for what they have done this season. 

“We told them as a coaching staff that we were extremely proud of them, that they had a great season and to not hang their heads, but to be proud of themselves for what they had accomplished this year,” Griffiths said.

Leading up to Saturday’s championship games, Virgin Valley first defeated North Valleys 8-3 on May 19. Entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Bulldogs broke a 3-3 tie by scoring two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth for junior pitcher Riley Price to seal the game and move on in the winner’s bracket.

Price started all four games of the state tournament and threw complete games in three of them.

“She left everything on the field,” Griffiths said of Price. “She I think threw 266 pitches on Saturday and she just dug deep. She dug deep and worked through some tough situations and just kept firing. You have to credit her and all the girls.”

Not too many teams can say that they had a 33-game winning streak, in addition to winning a 3A Southern Regional title.

Throughout the state tournament, Griffiths said the team did their best to take advantage of opportunities.

“The thing I would say about the whole tournament is that they left everything on the field,” Griffiths said. “Every game they played hard, and in the end, they gave themselves a chance. Even though we made a few mistakes, they gave themselves a chance to win ballgames, and to win a state title. Just didn’t quite do it.”

With at least 95 percent of the team returning for next season, the experience of the 2022 season will be in the back of the players’ minds during the offseason.

Griffiths said his team does not need much encouragement to get ready for what’s ahead because they already know what they want next year: to reach the top.

“There will be motivation. I guarantee that this group of girls will have one goal in mind next year,” Griffiths said. “And that will be to win a state championship. That will be their focus. There will be no questions about it with this group. They know what their what their goal is for next year and I don’t think it’ll take a lot to motivate them. Because they know they know how close they came to it, and they know what they’re capable of.”