WELLS – The Lady Leopards are hoping the fourth time is a charm, the Leopards looking to exact some revenge too.
For the past four seasons, the Wells softball team has won the Division 1A North regional title, unfortunately falling in the state championship the past three years to the same team – the Lady Panthers of Pahranagat Valley.
Pahranagat Valley has also done a number on the Wells baseball team, defeating the Leopards 11-1 in the 2016 1A state championship at Wooster High School in Reno.
Before the Lady Leopards can place their focus on beating Pahranagat Valley, Wells must first continue its rich history against South No. 2 Indian Springs, opening the Division 1A Nevada State Softball Championships against the Lady Thunderbirds.
In the 2015 opening round of the state tourney, Wells knocked off Indian Springs by a final score of 9-4.
The Lady Leopards narrowly claimed a 10-8 battle against the Lady Thunderbirds in the first game of the 2016 state tournament, downing Indian Springs once again last year in the opening round by a score of 8-4.
Indian Springs has posted an overall record of 15-8, closing the regular season with a mark of 6-3 in the Division 1A South, going 2-2 in the 1A South regional tournament.
At regionals, the Lady Thunderbirds posted victories of 7-4 and 14-8 over Tonopah, but all roads lead through Alamo, the Lady Panthers defeating Indian Springs 18-3 in the regional semifinal and 14-4 in the regional championship.
The Lady Leopards were never threatened in their march back to a fourth straight regional title – finishing with a 6-0 record during the regular season of the Division 1A Northern-East – running through the regional tournament by a combined score of 42-1 over its opponents in three games, never facing a contest closer than 12 runs.
Junior Laila Jackson has been a huge reason for Wells’ dominance, both with her experience behind the plate and a greatly-improved bat.
She leads Wells with 47 RBIs, batting .603 for the season, topping the roster with 10 doubles and adding three home runs and a triple.
The Lady Leopards have four players batting .500 or better.
Senior Samantha Shamblin hits .559 and has driven in 23 runs, senior Keegan Laughlin batting .542 with 23 RBIs and a team-best four yard jobs – also legging out a team-high six triples.
Senior Ady Prado is second on the team with 27 RBIs, batting .508 with four doubles, two triples and two homers.
Pitching has been a staple for Wells for the past four years, the Lady Leopards riding the arm of graduated Katlyn DelRio.
Shamblin has become the new go-to arm for the Lady Leopards’ staff, throwing 102 innings and striking out 138 batters against 35 walks, winning a whopping 20 ballgames along the way with a 1.92 ERA.
Wells’ first step toward an elusive state title must first go through, not around, Indian Springs at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at North Valleys High School in Reno, the winner facing either South No. 1 Pahranagat Valley or North No. 2 Coleville in the regional semifinal.
The Wells baseball team will taste state action in the same city as the last time it appeared in the dance, not qualifying for the tournament in 2017.
In 2016, the Leopards advanced all the way to the state championship game before falling 11-1 in six innings to Pahranagat Valley.
The Panthers also defeated the Leopards 19-9 in the first game of the 2016 tournament, Wells fighting back to the title game through the loser’s bracket with consecutive wins.
Like Wells’ softball team, the Leopards were rarely, barely or never challenged in league during the 2018 regular season, going undefeated in lopsided ballgames of the Division 3A Northern-East.
Wells finished the regular season 6-0 in league play and won its first two ballgames of the regional tournament before losing for the first time to a 1A North squad by a final score of 12-8 to Virginia City in the preliminary championship, bouncing back with a 9-5 victory over the Muckers for the 1A North regional title and a No. 1 seed.
Pahranagat Valley will enter the state tournament with a No. 2 seed from the South, falling 14-12 to Indian Springs in the second round of the 1A South regional tournament and dropping a 14-4 ballgame to the Thunderbirds in the regional final.
During the regular season, the Leopards and Panthers squared off twice on March 16 and 17 during the Pahranagat Valley tournament in Alamo, the hosts cruising to wins of 11-1 and 18-3 against a shorthanded Wells team.
The Leopards have regained several key players after returning from injuries, turning Wells into a totally different unit.
“We have worked a lot on developing our pitching, and we have some good depth there now, which is huge for tournament formats,” said Wells coach Joel Soriano. “With Zane (Rodriguez) and Sergio (Soriano) back, they make us way better.”
Since his return from an ACL tear, Rodriguez leads the Leopards with a .513 batting average, driving in 18 runs in 14 games. In limited action, he is already tied for the team-high with three triples.
On the mound, the junior has struck out 34 batters against 13 walks, allowing 15 hits over 26-1/3 innings with a 2.392 ERA and a 1.063 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning).
Senior Oscar Casas tops the Wells roster with 31 RBIs and hits .478, followed by 27 runs driven in by senior Juan Berumen – who is batting .460 and has hit a team-best eight doubles, tying for the team high with three triples.
Senior Luke Escamilla serves as the fourth Wells batter with an average of .400 or better at .409 with 19 RBIs.
Senior Corbin Madison has 20 RBIs, and junior Enrique Aguilar is tied for the team high with three triples and has scorched Wells’ lone homer.
Aguilar has doubled as a catcher and a pitcher, posting a 3.706 ERA over 22-2/3 innings.
The Leopards will try to crack the Panthers’ code at 4 p.m. Thursday at North Valleys High School in Reno, the winner taking on either South No. 1 Indian Springs or North No. 2 Virginia City in the semifinal round of the Division 1A Nevada State Baseball Championships.