Lady ’Stangs shut out White Pine Lady Bobcats for NIAA 2A State Championship
NEEDLES — An enthusiastic crowd gathered at Needles High School May 18 to welcome home the 2019 NIAA 2A State Champion Lady ’Stangs softball team and the large polished wood trophy they brought with them.
After faltering briefly in divisional competition the week before the girls ripped through the state tournament in short order, finishing with an 11-0 mercy rule drubbing of White Pine’s Lady Bobcats in the championship game. Pitcher Paige Murch slugged a three-run walk-off home run to end the game in the fifth inning.
Coach Alex Chandler called the championship, “Very well deserved. Our girls have worked hard all season long: a lot of long hours, hard hours, hot hours; so it’s very well deserved.”
The Lady ’Stangs ended their regular league season undefeated but fell to Lincoln County, the only team to give them a serious challenge in the regular season, in the south league tournament.
“The last couple of weeks we just told the girls we’ve got to put our foot down on the gas pedal and not let up,” Chandler said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is; if we’re down, if we’re ahead; and that is exactly what they did today. We didn’t even allow White Pine, our opponents, to score today and that might be the first game that we’ve done that,” she said of Saturday’s shutout. “We completely put our foot down on the pedal and did not let up. We didn’t push on the brake one bit today.”
Entering the state tournament as the No. 2 seed from the south, Needles beat the north’s top team, Silver Stage, 14-9 in Game 1. White Pine, the No. 2 seed from the north, beat Lincoln County in Game 2 the opening day of play Thursday, May 16.
Silver Stage came back to defeat Lincoln 10-9 in Game 3; Needles beat White Pine 8-7 in Game 4; and White Pine beat Silver Stage 14-12 in a 10-inning Game 5 on Friday.
That set the stage for the Lady ’Stangs’ 11-0 win over the defending state champions from Ely, Nev., on Saturday. Chandler agreed a shutout is unusual in a championship game. “It doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked any more of them today. They did exactly what they knew they had to do.”
The coach called the win “A complete team effort. Of course we have (senior) Paige (Murch) who has thrown every single game for us. She hit two home runs today. So her bat and her arm on the mound today were just phenomenal. But all of the bats were great and we were pretty tight on defense all the way around.”
The Lady ’Stangs are no strangers to softball championships; topping the list of NIAA team records for all classes with 12 at the end of 2017, when they won their most recent.
Sandy Chandler coached several of those championship teams back when they included his daughters Alex, Abby, or both; and still volunteers his time on the coaching staff.
This is Alex’ second year as head coach; she was joined this year by Abby. But even with all that institutional knowledge a state championship for a coach in her second year is as unusual as, well, a shutout in the final game. What’s her secret? “Hard work. We push the girls harder, sometimes, than I think they want us to. But we didn’t really catch any flack on that. The girls committed to the three-hour practices, the traveling to different tournaments and things. They completely committed to working hard and it totally showed today.
“It was definitely a successful year,” she continued. “We went undefeated in league and up until divisionals we were really great on the field.
“I think losing that divisional title helped us and motivated us this weekend. So we take the big trophy home. Of course that was one of the goals that we wanted to check off: to win the league championship, the divisional championship and the state championship but this thing,” she chuckled, waving the trophy, “is a lot prettier than the divisional trophy so we’ll take it.
“A huge thank you to our community and their continuous support. Needles is such an incredible place and we are so proud to bring home the hardware!
“We’re extremely proud,” she concluded. “We couldn’t have asked these girls for anything more.
“We’re extremely proud and lucky to have coached them and we hope they learned as much from us as we did from them this year.”