In the opening game of their best-of-three regional series against Sparks, the Lady Indians got a two-hit performance from starting pitcher Hailey Wright and clutch base hits in an 11-1 victory. Josalynn Harris provided the final highlight with a two-run blast over the left field fence to bring the mercy rule into play.
Harris' homer came as Sparks made a pitching change, going to Madisyn Lock in the bottom of the fifth. Lock's first pitch was her last as Harris was able to turn on it and drive it deep.
"(Elko coach) Joe (Gallegos) told me to go through my ABCs and take a deep breath before I go up there," Harris said of her blast. "I saw that the pitch was inside, and I love inside pitches. It was right there. I wasn't swinging for the fences, but I was happy it went over."
The Lady Railroaders were extremely generous with a handful of errors that Elko capitalized on for runs in the second and third innings.
In the bottom of the second inning, Elko started to turn the screws on Sparks.
Bailey Heathman singled to left to start the frame, but the left fielder's throw back to the infield was high, and Heathman advanced to third. Hailey Wright ripped a single up the middle to bring Heathman home for the first run. A single by Alyssa Stevens and another Sparks' error put runners on second and third. Megan Finlayson hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 2-0.
Shaydea Mead walked and took second on a defensive indifference. Tricia Ogle lifted a sacrifice fly to right to bring Stevens home, and Mead advanced to third.
The Railroaders made two crucial errors on the next two plays. They had Mead picked off at third on a throw by catcher Madison Franco, but the third baseman dropped the ball on what would have been the third out.
The inning continued, and Whitney Bilbao hit a grounder to short that ricocheted off the defender's glove for the fourth error of the inning. Harris followed a couple of batters later with a two-run single to center to make it 6-0.
Meanwhile, Wright was cruising on the mound. She retired the first six Railroaders she faced, and gave up just one hit through the first four innings.
"Hailey did well," Gallegos said. "She had a little zip on her ball, and she threw her change-up for strikes. She was able to keep their hitters off balance."
The Indians tacked on three runs in the bottom of the third. Mead reached on an error, Ogle walked, and Bilbao singled. The right fielder misplayed Bilbao's single, and Mead came home. Ogle scored on a wild pitch, and Bilbao came around for the ninth run of the game on an RBI single by Aly Freitag.
Sparks did break up the shutout in the top of the fifth. Miranda Busch drew a leadoff walk, but Wright got the next two batters. With two outs, Stephanie Miller reached on an error to put runners on second and third. Teresita Espana came in as a pinch hitter and delivered a single to center to make it 9-1.
"We had a couple of errors on defense. I'd like to tighten those up," Gallegos said of what his team needs to do better as the series continues today. "No matter what the score is we need to keep our focus."
Elko and Sparks (13-12) will play Game 2 at 11 a.m. today. If the Lady Railroaders pull out a win, a decisive third game will be played about 30 minutes after the conclusion of first contest. The winner of the series advances to the regional tournament next weekend in Winnemucca.
"We just need to come out as hard as we did today," said Harris, who finished the game 2-for-4 with four RBIs. "We can't underestimate them. Just because we won by 10 today, doesn't mean we'll do it again tomorrow. Sparks will come out fighting because they want to move on as bad as we do."
With the win, Elko improves to 19-6. The 19 wins are the most in a single season in at least the last nine years for the Tribe.