Palo Verde junior Melissa Lacro needed just 68 pitches, 43 of them strikes, to dispense of Reed in the loser-out affair. After Reed got its run across in the second inning, Lacro stiffened her grip on the RHS offense. She limited the Raiders to three hits in the final five innings and only one Reed baserunner even got to second base in that stretch.
"She used her off-speed pitches," Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said. "She kept the ball down and let the defense work."
There was a little more to it than that according to third-year Reed coach Jon Wunder.
"She (Lacro) kept it slow and low and we didn't adjust. That's the biggest difference in the game. We weren't patient. We chased a lot of pitches ... I wasn't up there but they must have looked fat."
Multiple Reed hitters admitted they struggled to slow down their bats against the soft-tossing Lacro.
"The slower pitching we've struggled with all season," said Reed senior Mary Dettling, who had two of the Raiders' six hits. "It got to us. We started our bats too early and kept popping out. It can happen."
Reed senior Lindsay Yearman echoed those sentiments.
"Usually we hit the ball better off quicker pitchers," she said. "Instead of just reacting, it's an adjustment. We did hit some balls today hard but right at people."
In addition to their offensive struggles, walks, in the fourth inning, also came back to haunt Reed, and two-out walks at that.
After the first two Panthers were retired in the fourth, Palo Verde No. 8 and No. 9 hitters Lauren Oxford and Dejanae Gage were issued walks. Panthers leadoff hitter Rachel Turner then crushed a double into the right-center field gap to plate both runners and give the Summerlin-area school a 3-1 advantage.
"I play travel ball with Oxford and she walks all the time," Reed pitcher Jackie Sertic said. "She's a patient hitter and I think I let that walk get to me. So I gave up that second walk. I know I wasn't 100 percent on my game but my defense played really well. We didn't make an error."
Free passes hurt Reed again in the sixth. Breanna Beatty and Dayana Gage singled. With two outs, Reed intentionally walked Turner, who was 3-for-3 to that point, to load the bases. Another walk, to pinch hitter Mackenzie McBride, forced in Beatty and Palo Verde (29-8) forged ahead 4-1.
Reed did score first in the playoff contest. With one out in the bottom of the second, Lindsay Yearman singled and came around to score after singles by Sertic and Chelsea Cummings.
The Raiders' lead was short-lived as Palo Verde tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the third. Turner singled with one out. Then with two outs, Kali Tomlinson and Brooke Stover laced back-to-back singles to plate Turner.
Reed, the High Desert League and North Region champion, finishes its season 29-9-3.
"We don't want to dwell on this. Now it's time to look back at winning the North last week and what we've accomplished this year," Wunder said.
"At the beginning of the season we knew our tradition was solid. We knew we had good pitching come back and a couple really good hitters. But we knew there were a few other good teams in the North, too. With only one North team going to state this year, we knew it would be tough to get back to state. I thought we could, but I wasn't sure if it would all come together. I'd say we surpassed expectations this season."
*Reed advanced into its night game Friday against Palo Verde by staving off elimination earlier in the day with a 2-0 triumph over Green Valley.
Raiders designated hitter Britni Greninger doubled and scored in both the fourth and sixth innings to account for the RHS offense.
Sertic, turned in a pitching gem. She stifled the Gators' bats, finishing with a complete-game three-hit shutout. She struck out 10 and did not walk a single batter. Green Valley only even got one runner as far as second base in the loss.