ELKO – The Elko softball team overcame a scare from winless Sparks in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Lady Indians prevailed late for a 7-5 victory and swept the series with a 10-3 win in the finale, moving to above .500 in league play for the first time this season.
Elko escaped consecutive two-out singles from freshman Myshela Todd and junior Akosita TauFa’ao in the top of the first with an inning-ending strikeout from sophomore pitcher Madi Murray.
Senior Mollie Gallagher led off the bottom half with a double, but the next three hitters fell in succession.
In the bottom of the second, senior Riley Harris was hit by a pitch in the leadoff spot – Murray and junior Lauryn Guenin following with back-to-back singles – Elko taking a 1-0 lead an RBI single by junior Kenzie Ratliff that crossed Harris.
The Lady Indians tacked on another run in the bottom of the third.
Junior Kaitlyn Rizo singled to shortstop to lead off, and junior Jacqueline Pete reached on an error at shortstop.
Rizo was driven home by a single from Murray to left field with one out, but the next two hitters went down in order.
Elko played its first clean inning defensively and sat down the Lady Railroaders in order in the top of the fourth, and the Lady Indians built a three-run advantage in the bottom half.
Gallagher laid down a bunt for a single with one out, scoring on a two-out base knock by Rizo to left field.
The game turned into a serious affair in the top of the fifth.
Senior Angelica Hurtado reached on a leadoff error behind the plate on a bunt, advancing to second on a single by junior Caroline Aguilar.
Elko recorded a fielder’s choice for an out at third base, but senior Nicole Fierro answered with a double to center field – cutting the lead to two – driving in Aguilar and placing runners on second and third.
A single by TauFa’ao was cut down on a throw by Guenin to Gallagher at second base, but the game was tied on runs by senior Rilee Nelson and Fierro.
Harris led off the bottom half of the fifth with a single, but the game advanced to the top of the sixth a 3-3 tie after three-consecutive outs.
With Sparks bidding for a lead, Murray struck out the first and third hitters of the frame – sitting down the Lady Railroaders one-two-three.
Elko made some separation in the bottom of the inning.
Freshman Emery Lesbo got things rolling with a leadoff single to shortstop, Gallagher reaching on an error at third base.
Sparks notched an out against the lead runner with a fielder’s choice at third base, but the game swung to another three-run lead with a swing of the shillelagh.
Rizo turned on a 1-0 pitch for a home run to center field, giving Elko a 6-3 lead as she drove in Gallagher, junior Alexis Elquist and herself.
Pete rode the momentum and hammered a triple to center, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Harris for a 7-3 advantage.
The Lady Indians loaded the bases – Murray reaching on an error at first base, Guenin poking a single up the middle and Ratliff drawing a walk – squandering the opportunity with a line out to second base.
Sparks responded with another push in the top of the seventh.
Aguilar hit a one-out double to left field, and the Lady Railroaders took payment for intentionally walking Fierro – TauFa’ao cutting the deficit in half with a two-out, two-RBI double to center field – Elko’s lead sliced to 7-5.
Murray forced a groundout to Harris at third base, Elko hanging on for a two-run victory.
Rizo closed with a team-best four RBIs – three coming on her fourth home run of the season – finishing 3-for-4 at the plate.
She tied Gallagher for the team high in runs scored, each plating two scores.
Gallagher finished 2-for-4 with a double.
Murray and Guenin each went 2-for-4 at the dish, Murray driving in one run.
TauFa’ao drove in a team-high four runs for the Lady Railroaders, hitting 3-for-4 with a double.
Aguilar went 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and tied Fierro for the team high with two runs scored apiece, Fierro’s lone hit in three at-bats going for a double.
Following a close game in the first contest of the twin bill, Elko got off to a slow start in the series finale.
Sparks built a 3-0 lead before the Lady Indians posted 10-unanswered runs en route to a 10-3 victory.
Nelson and Fierro put Sparks on the board, hitting leadoff doubles for a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Sophomore Breanna Whitted limited the damage with consecutive strikeouts and a groundout to Pete at shortstop.
Elko went down one-two-three in the bottom of the first, Sparks wasting Aguilar’s one-out double in the top of the second with consecutive outs – a groundout to Gallagher at second base and a K by Whitted ending the frame.
Pete knocked a leadoff single in the bottom half and Harris walked, but Elko grounded into a 5-3 double play and popped out.
The Lady Railroaders opened a three-run lead in the top of the third.
Fierro singled to center with one out, TauFa’ao was hit by a pitch and Todd dropped a two-run single into right field – driving in Fierro – another single to right field by sophomore Haylee Nelson crossing TauFa’ao for a 3-0 lead.
Whitted led off the bottom of the third with a single, but Elko’s next three hitters went down without a whimper.
The Lady Indians kept the deficit at three with a clean frame in the top of the fourth, the game swinging drastically in the bottom half.
Rizo hit a leadoff single, Pete reached on an error at first base and Harris hammered a timely two-run single to shortstop.
Murray reached on an error at second base and placed runners on the corners, an RBI groundout by Guenin driving in Harris and tying the game.
Elko took a 4-3 lead on the ensuing AB, Murray scoring on a single by Whitted.
Following a lineout, Elko plated two more runs with two outs.
Gallagher singled to third base and stole second base, and Elquist came up with a huge knock on a line up the gut – sending in sophomore Mary-Tessa Slater and Gallagher for a 6-3 lead.
The Lady Indians used a two-out error in the bottom of the fifth for another run – Harris scoring on a grounder by Lesbo to first base – and a base knock by Gallagher drove in Guenin for an 8-3 lead.
Elko played a clean inning of defense in the top of the sixth, extending the margin offensively in the bottom of the frame.
Rizo and Pete led off with consecutive singles – Harris loading the bases with an error in center field – and Rizo scored on another error on the mound, a miscue at second base on the next AB allowing Pete a run for a seven-run cushion.
In the top of the seventh, freshman pitcher Rylee Ferguson closed the show – striking out the side in order.
Elko overcame a 3-0 deficit and posted 10 straight runs for a 10-3 victory and a series sweep of Sparks.
Harris finished 2-for-3 and drove in two runs, Elquist and Guenin also driving in two runs for the Lady Indians.
Pete and Rizo tied Harris for the game high in runs scored, each crossing home twice.
Despite Elko finishing without an extra-base knock, Rizo and Gallagher each hit 2-for-3 – Whitted and Pete each going 2-for-4 at the dish.
Whitted allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over six innings, striking out five batters without a walk.
In one inning of relief, Ferguson struck out all three batters she faced.
Haylee Nelson, Fierro and Todd each drove in a run for Sparks.
Fierro finished 2-for-4 with a double, Rylee Nelson and Aguilar hitting one double each.
The Lady Indians’ Tuesday game against Spring Creek was delayed, now playing a doubleheader against the Lady Spartans on April 24 in Spring Creek.
Elko (7-6 in league play) will open a three-game series against defending regional champion Fallon (9-1 in 3A North) at 3 p.m. Friday at Newton Field.