One way or another, the season was going to come to an end for the Eureka County High softball team in the Division IV State Tournament in Reno last weekend, it just didn’t go down the way they had planned.
After a promising start to the weekend, the Lady Vandals would fall to eventual champion Pahranagat Valley twice in two days, including the championship game, ending their dream of a state title. It was the second consecutive year that Eureka lost to Pahranagat Valley in the state title game.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy to beat them, but we knew we could do it,” said Eureka coach Mary Jane Hodson. “We had a bad inning in the title game, but bounced back. It just ended up being a little late.”
Eureka opened the weekend with a convincing 8-1 win over Indian Springs on Thursday before meeting the Lady Panthers in the semi-final game Friday afternoon. The Lady Vandals took a two-run lead in the third inning, but weren’t able to hold on as the Pahranagat scored once in the seventh to pick up the 6-5 win.
“We were tied going into the seventh, but had some base running mistakes and weren’t able to score,” Hodson said.
Hodson’s team was still alive in the double-elimination tournament though, and bounced back nicely to beat Wells 4-0, setting up a wild finish between the league’s top two teams.
Trailing 8-3 in the sixth inning of the title game, Eureka pulled off an unusual double-play during a pickle that gave them life heading into the final frame. The Lady Vandals used that momentum to score three in the seventh, but couldn’t complete the comeback and lost 8-6.
Pahranagat Valley senior Kennedy Huntsman started and finished all three games in the circle for her team in the state tournament, striking out four and holding Eureka to just four hits in the title game.
“I couldn’t have done it without my amazing teammates, they had my back every time,” Huntsman said.
It was a tough way to end the season for the Lady Vandals, but they accomplished a lot along the way. The girls hadn’t lost a game since early April, won every home game they played and finished with an overall record of 24-3.
They also landed nine players on the all divisional team. Angela Porter, Taylor Anderson, C.C. Brown and Annette Hayward earned first team honors, while Bridgette Bacon, Cassie Wells and Taylor Usry were named to the second team. Amanda Ketzenberg and Reba Skinner earned honorable mentions.
And the young team that only loses one senior, Alecia Stauffer, has plenty to look forward to next year.
“It was a great season, we really grew as a team,” Hodson said. “We learned a lot of discipline and worked a lot on the mental game. We still have room to work with both of those, but are well on our way for another great season next year.”