MESQUITE – The Elko girls softball team’s season began well, got shaky but ended with a victory.
The Lady Indians opened 9-1 advantage Thursday over defending Division 1A state runner-up Wells during the Virgin Valley Tournament in Mesquite, only to see the Lady Leopards come from the depths of despair and nearly win the ballgame.
Elko held on for a 9-8 win in the season opener, surviving a seven-run rally by the Lady Leopards.
Playing as the away team, Elko tore off a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
The first RBI of the season was provided by junior Kaitlyn Rizo on a groundball, scoring senior Mollie Gallagher.
The Lady Indians plated their next three runs with a two-out rally.
Rizo came home on a line-drive single by junior Lauryn Guenin to right field, and Elko loaded the bases with a walk drawn by sophomore Caresse Basaraba.
The next two Elko runs were a result of a Wells error in left field on a fly ball by senior Riley Harris, junior Jacqueline Pete and Guenin standing on the gas for a 4-0 advantage.
Elko retired Wells in order in the bottom of the first, and the Lady Indians grabbed a 5-0 lead in the top of the second – using an RBI groundout by junior Kenzie Ratliff to score Gallagher’s second run of the game.
Wells mounted just one runner in the bottom of the second – coming on a single by senior Samantha Shamblin – and Elko’s lone hit in the top of the third came off Basaraba’s bat.
The Lady Leopards plated their first run of the season in two-out fashion in the bottom of the third, the rally started by consecutive singles from seniors Keegan Laughlin and Kendra Franco.
A fly-ball single by junior Laila Jackson drove in Laughlin, but Franco was gunned down at third base on a throw from Pete to Ratliff.
Junior Alexis Elquist reached on a leadoff error by Wells at shortstop in the top of the fourth inning, but she was caught stealing home for the third out on a play by Jackson at catcher for the Lady Leopards.
The Lady Leopards fell in succession in the bottom of the fourth, and Elko followed with a big top-half in the fifth.
Pete drove a leadoff single, followed by a one-out knock by Guenin – the duo taking second and third base on a passed ball.
Another passed ball allowed Pete to cross the dish for a 6-1 lead, and Basaraba singled to right field and drove in Guenin for a 7-1 advantage.
With runners on second and third, Elko used a Wells error at third base to its benefit on a grounder by Gallagher – Basaraba dashing to the plate.
With two outs, a base knock by Rizo drove in Harris – Elko taking a 9-1 lead but ending the inning on the base paths on a throw from junior Betty Aboite to Franco at second base.
With the games of the tournament on a time limit, Elko’s eight-run lead appeared safe, better think again.
Wells went off in the bottom half of the fifth.
Senior Ady Prado led off with a single to second base, and sophomore Julianne right reached on an error at first base.
Elko recorded an out, but Prado scored on a passed ball – and a two-RBI double by Franco set the ball in motion for Wells.
The two-bagger drove in Wright and sophomore Jackie Berumen, pulling the Lady Leopards to within five at 9-4.
Jackson singled to shortstop, and a single by senior Lacye Pearson drove in Franco, 9-5.
She scored on a passed ball, Aboite was intentionally walked and Prado singled to right field and drove in Pearson, 9-7.
Elko stopped the bleeding with a flyout to Pete at shortstop, but Wells was not done.
Shamblin scored on a fielder’s choice on a groundball by Berumen, pulling the Lady Leopards to within one at 9-8.
With the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second, the Lady Indians escaped the bottom of the fifth frame with a flyout to right field on a catch by sophomore Dariahn Primeaux.
Elko built an eight-run lead, gave up a seven-run rally and escaped with a 9-8 victory in the season opener for both clubs.
Rizo led the Lady Indians with two RBIs on a 2-for-3 day at the plate, Franco topping Wells’ lineup with a 2-for-3 effort and a double for two RBIs of her own – her two-bagger serving as the only extra-base hit of the game for either team.
Along with Rizo, the Lady Indians had four players notch multiple hits – Basaraba going 2-for-2 and Guenin and Pete each finishing 2-for-3 and crossing the plate twice apiece.
Gallagher tied for the team high with two runs scored for Elko.
Prado and Jackson each closed with 2-for-3 performances at the dish for the Lady Leopards.
ELKO – 410 04 – 9 8 1
WELLS – 001 07 – 8 11 6
The Lady Indians will look to improve to 2-0 against defending 1A state champion Pahranagat Valley at noon Friday, while Wells will look for its first win of the season at 10 a.m. Friday against tournament host Virgin Valley.