Season recap: Much more to come for Lady Tigers | RecordCourier.com

Season recap: Much more to come for Lady Tigers

by Joey Crandall

Heading into the year, there wasn’t much to prevent anyone from saying the Douglas High softball program was headed for its second-consecutive rebuilding year.

Douglas had just hired a head coach three months before the season, the roster sported seven underclassmen and only a handful of the upperclassmen had seen significant varsity experience.

Douglas got off to the start that was expected, steadily putting together a 7-5 record while suffering a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the eventual league champion Reno Huskies.

That series (The Huskies outscored the Tigers 50-6 in three games) could’ve been the breaking point for any other young team, but Douglas came back to win its next six games and took 16 of its last 22 to advance all the way to the Northern 4A Regional title game before falling at the hands of the defending regional champion Spanish Springs Cougars.

“It was pretty wild, pretty exciting,” First-year Douglas coach Andy Mitchell said. “I was just so proud of the girls. They worked extremely hard.

“It was a great experience and I think they saw improvement individually and as a team. At the end, what they got out of it is something they are going to remember the rest of their lives.”

Douglas took a 13-3 loss at the hands of third-ranked Reed in the first round of the playoffs, but came back with a 5-4 win over Elko and an 8-4 win over Carson to advance to a matchup with Reno.

The Tigers shocked the Huskies with a 2-1 win and beat Reed 6-5 the next morning to advance to the championship.

“There were a lot of supporters the further we got,” Mitchell said. “Parents, opposing coaches, even some of the umpires were coming up and saying they were impressed with the level of play the team was showing.

“They could see the improvement over the year and they sensed there was something different. They saw the positive attitude and the teamwork and how it was paying off.”

Perhaps the most telling element of the team’s dream run through the tournament was that the starting lineup throughout the week averaged six or seven players who will be back next season. Many coaches are just glad to get their younger players a glimpse of the playoff environment.

Mitchell’s underclassmen were many of the players carrying the load to get there.

“The team really bonded as the season went on,” Mitchell said. “Their chemistry was really phenomenal. The girls worked really hard, they liked each other and they pushed each other.

“I think another was, the further we got in the playoffs, the further we exceeded our own expectations. They did have a lot more confidence, but I think they were just playing looser. They weren’t showing any nerves out there at all.”

At the center of it all was sophomore hurler Stephanie Harper, who pitched all 40 innings of the tournament for the Tigers.

“She was pretty much worn out physically and mentally by Saturday,” Mitchell said. “That was an incredible thing, for her to stay as focused as she did because we put the entire load on her.

“We knew once she broke down that we’d probably be done, but she never did.

“The girls really recognized what she was doing out there and that made them want to step up even more.”

Douglas loses a strong core of seniors led by shortstop Tisha Luken. Angella Stephenson, Morgan Barone and Nicole LaPorte also made big contributions to the team throughout the year.

The youth movement coming back, however, has Mitchell fairly excited about the future.

His top three spots in the lineup, freshman Emily Weaver, sophomore Mackenzie Cauley and junior Lauren Hoppe will all be back, as will the heart of the order (freshman Katrina Morgan, sophomore Marina Diaz, Harper and sophomores Chloe Trudell and Donna Judd).

Utility player Dorothy Sliva will also fit into the picture a number of ways.

“It’s a real strong group of players that will be back,” Mitchell said. “We’ll get to work over the summer and see what we can do.”

Mitchell’s summer squad, the Carson Valley Hurricanes, will have a tryout Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the varsity field.

“Right now, our goal is to get enough players for two teams, with one being an 18s team for those who are looking to play in college,” Mitchell said. “The other would be a developmental team.”

Harper said the teams would be looking to stay intact through the fall. There is no cost to try out. For more information on the teams, call Mitchell at 782-4849 or Tod Harper at 267-3974.

— Joey Crandall can be reached at jcrandall@recordcourier.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.