Despite losing much of the talent from last year’s regional and state championship team, there’s no ignoring that the Cougars are the team to beat after cruising to a 16-0 record in league play.
Spanish Springs (28-2) is riding a 26-game winning streak. The team’s only losses came to California opponents in the first tournament of the season.
In 23 games against Nevada schools, the Cougars have outscored the opposition 209-27. Still, Spanish Springs cannot rest on that past success.
“Their focus going into regionals is the same as its been throughout the whole year,” SSHS softball coach Jeff Davidson said. “The girls are out working hard every single day. They’re taking every game seriously. They’re just ready to go. We’ve had some balls bounce our way in some key games. We just continue to work on fundamentals. We know other teams are going to hit the ball. We just have to make the routine plays.”
At the plate, Davidson said his team will be successful if his hitters hit the ball square as well as down and hard. The coaching staff has been preaching that all season and the players get about 200 cuts in practice each day.
The work has paid off to the tune of a .430 team batting average and the Cougars are scoring over eight runs per game.
Heading into the season, Spanish Springs was a very young squad of only four seniors. Davidson said his team has grown up a lot, but there have been growing pains, especially since the infield was entirely new. But with 30 games under its belt, Davidson said he expects the defense to continue to play well.
But there is more parity this year than most, which means the Purple and Silver cannot afford to be complacent in the tourney.
“This year is very wide open. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous. Every year I’m concerned no matter what team I have,” Davidson said. “ Any team can be beaten on any given day. If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you’re going to be in trouble. And it doesn’t matter who you play and what anybody’s record is. You’ve got to be focused and mentally prepared. If you’re not, you’re going to get beat.”
The Cougars will take on fourth-seeded Galena at 2 p.m. Thursday, a team they beat 15-0 on Apr. 25 on the road.
Spanish Springs is the odds-on favorite to win the regional championship and earn the lone bid from the North to the state tournament.
However, plenty of teams will try to hand the Cougars their first loss to a Nevada foe this season. One of those teams is Reed, the No. 2 team from the High Desert League, which went 12-4 in Northern 4A league play.
“Our focus this week is working on what we do best. We’re not putting pressure on the girls,” Reed softball coach Jon Wunder said. “We told them it’s a new season. Everyone is 0-0. Either through scrimmages or regular games, we’ve beaten everybody. If we come out and take care of our game, we’re going to have a good shot at it.”
But the Raiders have a tough first-round matchup. Carson earned the No. 3 seed from the Sierra League by going 11-5 in league play. The two teams will meet for a third time this season at noon Thursday. The winner will face the winner of the Damonte Ranch (No. 1 SL) and North Valleys (No. 4 HDL) tilt Friday at noon. The losers must play again Thursday.
The Raiders and Senators split their meetings this season. Reed won 7-2 at home, but lost at Carson 8-6.
“We’ve played twice and they were slugfests,” Wunder said. “I think it’s going to come down to pitching and defense. I was talking to Destinee (Levesque) yesterday. They’re a good hitting team and she’s probably going to give up some hits. We need to play good defense behind her and not let baserunners advance on errors.
“We know each other. We’re going to go into it pretty loose. We know what to expect and they know what to expect.”
The goal for teams during this double-elimination tournament is to stay out of the losers’ bracket as long as possible. Reed has two pitchers capable of dominating in the circle, which helps in this format because teams can play three games back-to-back-back in a day.
“I think it’s very huge. They (Levesque and Shivaun Landeros) complement each other very well,” Wunder said. “They both have their go-to pitches. We’re going to ride Destinee. Shivaun is also our starting shortstop. I think it’s vital to not go into that losers’ bracket early. We’re certainly not looking past Carson, but if we can take care of that business on Thursday, that gives her another night of rest. If you drop that first one, you kind of have to do what you have to do.”
The Raiders just don’t want a repeat of last year when it was two-and-out for the Blue and Gold. It was the quickest exit for Reed during former coach Ray Charles’ 12-year tenure in the dugout. The RHS nine lost in the first round versus Carson and then to Douglas in the losers’ bracket.