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Reservoir softball rides fast start to shutout win over Manchester Valley in 3A quarterfinals

The stakes may be higher, but the formula hasn’t changed for undefeated Reservoir.

In the 3A state quarterfinals against visiting Manchester Valley on Tuesday, the top-seeded Gators put a few runs on the board early and then let their pitching do the rest on the way to a 6-0 win.

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Reservoir (14-0) advances to host Damascus on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the state semifinals with a potential berth in the program’s first state championship contest on the line.

“Our pregame meeting is all about sticking to the plan. We want our outfielders focusing on something, the infielders focusing on something and our offense locked in. At this point it’s all about keeping that routine,” said Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold. “We know what got us here, and while we definitely have to make in-game adjustments — probably even a little better than we are — we don’t want to lose sight of the things that have made us so successful.”

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No. 8 Manchester Valley (4-7) threatened in the top of the first inning with runners on first and third, however, the Gators wriggled out of the jam and wasted little time capitalizing in their half of the frame.

Maggie Frisvold led off with a single, Alyssa Kelly followed with a double and then Courtney Johnson laced a double of her own down the left-field line to put Reservoir ahead. An RBI groundout from Rhiannon Little two batters later plated Johnson to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.

“It makes it so much easier when Maggie does her job as leadoff and then Alyssa does her job and gets on … then all I have to do is put the ball in play,” Johnson said. “Our big thing today was just score first.”

For a Gators’ team that hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a game all season — and just six runs overall — the early cushion was a huge confidence boost.

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“With Kylee [Gunkel] on the mound, it’s easy to play behind her no matter what the score is, but with a couple of runs on the board we just feel that much better,” Johnson added.

Pitching with the lead, Gunkel (seven strikeouts in five innings) did indeed settle in. She set the visiting Mavericks down in order in the second, third and fourth innings.

Then in the fifth, after allowing a leadoff single to McKenzie Murray and a ringing double off the fence to Jaz Gouge, Gunkel dug in to retire the next three batters in order without allowing any runs.

Manchester Valley coach Michael Hernandez said he was pleased with the adjustments his team made as the game progressed, but it came down to needing another hit or two with runners in scoring position.

“Reservoir is a phenomenal team both offensively and defensively, so everything comes down to opportunities. And we kept putting together pieces here and there, but we couldn’t put it all together,” Hernandez said. “You give a team like that opportunities and they capitalize. We made a few mistakes and they took advantage, while we couldn’t quite get our bats together.”

Reservoir capitalized on two Manchester Valley errors in the bottom of the fifth to plate three more unearned runs against Mavericks sophomore pitcher Makenna Deane (six innings, two strikeouts, nine hits allowed) to increase the lead to six.

Manchester Valley had another quality scoring opportunity against Reservoir reliever Maggie Frisvold in the sixth — loading the bases with two outs. But again, the Gators held strong. This time it was a nicely timed change-up pitch from Frisvold that induced a comebacker for the third out to keep the game scoreless.

“A key to any strong team is finding a way to hold when those runners get in scoring position and today we did a great job with that,” Julie Frisvold said. “In pressure situations defensively, we settled down and made the plays.”

Maggie Frisvold ended up pitching two scoreless innings to close out the game, giving up just one hit and striking out two.

Offensively, Reservoir got multi-hit days from Kelly (2-3, 2 runs) and Gunkel (2-3, double), while Little joined Johnson with a team-leading 2 RBI. Eight of the Gators’ nine batters reached base safely at least once.

Reservoir now returns to the state semifinals for the first time since 2018 and for the third time in program history.

For Manchester Valley, despite the loss, the playoff run was a memorable one. After winning just twice during the regular season, the Mavericks won a pair of extra-inning games to secure the 3A East Region I title — the first region championship for the program since 2015.

“We kept getting a little stronger throughout the season and when we hit the playoffs we showed what we were capable of,” Hernandez said. “We ended up pulling up four or five JV kids and several of them were starting in the games and they stepped up. We do graduate three seniors, but the rest of the team is going to come back really strong. The future looks very bright.”

Reservoir 6, Manchester Valley 0

.... 123 456 7 R-H-E

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