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Cougars win regional tournament opener
by Dan Eckles
May 07, 2013 | 2425 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs second baseman Alyx Penrod throws to first base for an out during the Cougars' 3-2 playoff win Tuesday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs second baseman Alyx Penrod throws to first base for an out during the Cougars' 3-2 playoff win Tuesday.
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Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS softball coach Jeff Davidson congratulates senior pitcher Brette Lawrence (in headband) and the rest of his Cougars player following his club's postseason victory Tuesday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS softball coach Jeff Davidson congratulates senior pitcher Brette Lawrence (in headband) and the rest of his Cougars player following his club's postseason victory Tuesday.
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The old adage says big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. Spanish Springs senior Brette Lawrence is widely considered one of the top prep players in the state and on Tuesday she showed why -- on the big stage.

Amid cold, wet conditions, Lawrence limited the Bishop Manogue bats and pitched the Spanish Springs Cougars to a 3-2 home playoff triumph in a first-round game of the Division I North Regional Softball Tournament. The Cougars' star also ripped a two-out, two-RBI single that scored the SSHS gang's tying and go-ahead runs.

In the first inning, Manogue got to Lawrence for a pair of unearned runs, but the Spanish Springs ace gave up nothing more. She turned in a complete-game victory, scattering three Manogue hits while striking out six and walking one.

With two outs in the top of inning one, Manogue's Christa Young reached on an error. Her sister made the Cougars pay. Next, Miners cleanup hitter JoJo Young blasted a bomb over the left-field fence for a two-run homer.

That's as good as it got for the visitors. Lawrence overcame the elements and found her groove, retiring 12 of the final 15 hitters she faced.

"In the first couple innings, I was definitely a little over-excited to be here," Lawrence said, alluding to the game's extra playoff intensity. "But then I settled in and did what I was supposed to.

"I definitely made a mistake (on the home run) but she hit it well. It was supposed to be a riseball but I put it right down the middle. By the end of the game, I was definitely throwing more fastballs and dropballs and that was more due to the conditions. But I felt like I had pretty good control of everything."

Bishop Manogue starting pitcher Kayla Batastini was dealing through four innings. She was shutting down the Cougars sticks until the rain picked up its intensity in the fifth. Batastini walked the first three Cougars in the bottom of the fifth, throwing only one strike to the trio.

The walks -- to Kayla Arterburn, Alyx Penrod and Sidney Sinclair -- saturated the sacks with Cougars. Batastini found the strike zone again from there but the Spanish Springs offense finally showed some life.

After the three walks, Batastini struck out Cougars' leadoff hitter Karlie Merritt. Myrissa Prince followed and hit into a fielder's choice that scored Arterburn and broke up Batastini's shutout bid. Soon after, Prince stole second. That set the stage for Lawrence. She drilled a 1-2 offering from Batastini into right field. That allowed Penrod and Prince to race home, forging the Cougars ahead 3-2.

"I definitely wanted to be up in that situation, especially after my first two at-bats where I left runners on base," Lawrence said. "That was the key hit. I knew I had to pick up my team and hit something hard."

Batastini finally got out of the inning when her cousin, Cougars clean-up hitter Ally Batastini, drove a liner deep to center field that was tracked down by Miners outfielder J'Nay Soule for the final out.

"In the one inning, she couldn't hold onto the ball," Manogue coach Dave Hargrove said of Batastini's short-bout with wildness. "Until then, she was out-pitching them and we were outplaying them. I'm proud of our kids ... Kayla did everything she could. It just didn't work out. She certainly didn't want to walk those three batters."

Neither team really threatened any more offense through the final two frames, preserving the one-run win for the Cougars.

Spanish Springs won three state titles in a four-year span from 2007 to 2010. However, the last two years, despite having the same aspirations and being widely regarded as one of the top teams in the region, the Cougars have been bounced early from regional play failing to even reach the North title game let alone earn a state berth.

Davidson said his veteran club has great expectations again this spring and all his returners remember the sting of the past two years.

"This was a great team effort today and you expect that at regionals," Spanish Springs coach Jeff Davidson said. "Everybody wants to win and everybody is giving it their all. Our girls are practicing hard every day. Our seniors want to go out on a high note. We got down, but our senior catcher Sidney Sinclair called everyone together in the fifth inning and gave a great motivational speech. She did a great job of being a leader."

The win moves Spanish Springs (26-6) into the regional tourney's winners' bracket where it will face Sierra League champion Damonte Ranch Wednesday at 4 p.m., on the Miners' home field in south Reno.
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