Sharae Kuchta of Clovis Spitfire is tagged out trying to get back to first base by Ruidoso Lady Warriors first baseman Kirstie Trotter during Saturday’s 14-and-under matchup in the USSSA state championships at Guy Leeder Complex. Photo by Eric Kluth
By Eric Butler
On Saturday morning, first-round play of the state USSSA softball championships began at the Guy Leeder Softball Complex in Clovis. Those contests determined whether teams would be playing in “winners” or “losers” bracket games later that day in the double-elimination tournaments.
But whether the night contests were by nature elimination games or a chance to stay undefeated, excitement accompanied both kinds Saturday night.
Two Clovis teams, for instance, squared off in a 14-and-under winner’s bracket game. The Lookouts recovered from a 3-0 deficit by chipping away for single runs in the third and fourth innings to come back against Girl Power.
Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Lookouts leadoff hitter Sonia Chavez singled up the middle to start the winning rally — which would give her team a 4-3 victory.
Crystal Lopez doubled home Chavez with a seeing-eye bloop down the left-field line, which was followed by the go-ahead run scoring on a groundout.
“When we were in 12-and-under, we never beat them. But we did tonight, so I’m pretty happy,” Lopez said.
“That’s our nemesis,” Lookouts coach Arthur Gallegos said. “They’ve got a good team. We never had any doubt (after falling behind); we just needed to pick up our game.”
The result kept the Lookouts unbeaten, while Girl Power now no longer has the luxury of absorbing another loss and staying alive for a state championship.
One Portales team knew that feeling of potential elimination right away in the 16-and-under division. After the Portales Lady Blues fell in their opening game to an Alamogordo squad, a do-or-die game was next up on the agenda.
The Lady Blues survived, however, by defeating the Hobbs Stars 7-6 in a nine-inning game early Saturday night.
The Hobbs squad nearly won the contest, rallying from a 6-4 deficit in the bottom of the seventh. But, with two runners on base and two outs, Lady Blues center fielder Shareesa Nusser made a diving catch on a shallow fly ball to send the game into extra innings.
In the ninth, after Portales’ Jessica Adkins doubled and advanced to third on a grounder, Nusser drove home the winning run on a sacrifice fly to center.
“It’s nerve-wracking, especially because we don’t want to go home. We want to win this thing — we want to win it all,” Nusser said. “You’ve got to do anything not to let the ball get by.”
The slow-pitch softball state championships began with opening ceremonies on Friday night.
“We’ve got 61 teams here for the weekend. I’d say we had around 2,000 people here last night,” said tournament coordinator Roger Jackson on Saturday. “We had four extra sets of bleachers and they were full all the way around. It was a blast.”