With one swing of the bat, senior ace pitcher Chelsea Cohen went from being in line for the loss to ending Spanish Springs’ Northern 4A softball dominance.
Cohen’s two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted Reed to a 2-1 victory over the Cougars and gave the Blue and Gold its third straight win on the day for its first regional softball crown since 2002.
“It’s amazing. It’s all of our dreams. We’ve worked so hard and gotten so close as a team. We’re all behind each other,” Cohen said. “It’s really a dream for all of us. To get this opportunity is amazing, and the feeling is indescribable.”
Those dreams almost came crashing down in a nightmarish fashion in the top half of the eighth.
After playing to a scoreless tie through seven innings, Spanish Springs finally got on the board.
Cohen struck out the first batter in the eighth only to bean the Cougars’ speedy leadoff hitter Ashley Decker with a pitch.
Karley Hopkins sacrificed her over to second and Karlyn Jones helped her cause by ripping a single to center field to drive in Decker for the game’s first run.
It was the first time the Raiders trailed all day, but it didn’t last.
Erica McKenzie, who returned to the softball team after sitting out her junior season, hit a shot to shortstop to start the bottom of eighth. Decker made a diving grab, but McKenzie beat out the throw to first.
Brooke Silva dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move McKenzie up to scoring position.
Admittedly, Cohen has been struggling at the plate and she was just trying to get on base.
But Jones hung a curveball on the first pitch to Cohen and she drove it deep over the left-field fence for the game-winner.
Cohen, the team’s ace for three years and a four-year varsity standout, watched the Cougs win the last three regional championships. By holding Spanish Springs to five hits and a single run, Cohen picked up the win in the circle.
“No doubt. There’s not a better way to end it,” Reed coach Ray Charles said. “I couldn’t be more happy for Chelsea. She’s been our No. 1 and I’m so excited for her.”
Reed (33-5) became only the second team in the past 15 years to come through the losers’ bracket and win three games on championship Saturday to take the title. Douglas accomplished the feat in 2004.
The Raiders have sophomore pitcher Destinee Levesque to thank for getting them to the ‘if’ game with Spanish Springs.
Levesque followed up a two-hit shutout performance against Reno Saturday morning with another complete game victory against the Cougars.
“I just went in there with the mindset that I needed to throw strikes and focus on that batter. I didn’t want to get too cocky. I just tried my hardest and I know my team would back me up,” Levesque said while holding back tears. “It means the world to us because Spanish Springs has won for so long and we finally did it. I knew we had it in us.”
Reed tallied a run in the first and second innings of its 2-0 win over the Huskies and held on to advance out of the losers’ bracket and into the championship series. Levesque had six strikeouts and one walk in the game.
Game 1 was far from a pitchers’ duel in a rematch of last year’s title matchup between the Rail City rivals.
While Levesque allowed four runs on 11 hits, Reed was much more efficient at the plate than the SSHS crew, coming around to score 10 times in the 10-4 triumph.
Spanish Springs (27-8) had not given up more than seven runs all year.
However, the Cougars ace right-hander did not have her best stuff. Jones lasted just four innings before giving way to Ashley Collier to start the fifth. Reed already built a 7-2 edge to that point.
Kristy Pasley blasted a two-run homer as part of a three-run rally in the first, and Tess Oliphant also sent out a three-run shot in the third for the Raiders – both came off Jones.
Tia Wunder contributed three hits and an RBI in the winning cause, while Cohen added two hits and an RBI as part of Reed’s 12-hit attack.
For the Cougars, Ashley Decker and Jones went 3-for-4. Decker had two doubles and drove in a run. Jones finished with two RBIs, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the ‘if’ game.
“We made a couple mistakes in that first game and they jumped us. We fought back in the second game and had a lot of opportunities. So did they,” Cougars coach Jeff Davidson said. “You have to give it to Chelsea. She came up with the big two-run walk-off homer … I’m proud of my team and I wish Reed the best of luck in competing for a state title.
“It’s a hard loss today, but we’ll get over it. We only have two seniors so we return basically our entire team. This will be a step in our maturing.”
With Majestic Park in Las Vegas hosting the 4A state softball tournament, Reed will be the only representative from the North.
The Raiders won’t know their state semifinal opponent until Monday night after Sunrise Region runner-up Green Valley and Sunset Region runner-up Centennial face off in a play-in game at 3:30 p.m.