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State softball: Shadle hangs in

Greetings from Tacoma. Shadle Park and North Central lost their openers at the State 3A softball tournament. The Indians went out in two straight games, but the Highlanders bounced back for two wins and reached the final eight. Two wins and they’ll trophy for the fifth straight year. Pretty impressive efforts.

Here’s my story that will run tomorrow in The Spokesman-Review.

 


TACOMAShadle Park and North Central softball teams discovered during State 3A competition on Friday at SERA Fields that you can only live dangerously for so long.

The mistake prone Indians ultimately succumbed as a result to Prairie and the Highlanders squandered their share of scoring opportunities against first-time state qualifier Port Angeles, forcing both Spokane teams into consolation with tournament opening losses.

Each was 6-2, a four-run fourth inning dooming NC and a four-run sixth inning scuttling Shadle.

But a daring suicide squeeze bunt helped Highlanders’ (20-6) rebound for a 2-1 Friday record and game today at 11 a.m., needing two wins to earn a fifth straight state trophy.

They first defeated Bishop Blanchet 11-1 in six innings, then squeezed out the 5-4 triumph over Columbia River Friday evening.

Not as fortunate, the Indians (12-15) gave up another big inning, this time a six-run fifth losing 8-5 to Juanita that brought their season to an end.

Shadle Park: Twice, when Columbia River battled from behind to tie, the Highlanders answered, none more dramatically than on Amber Johnson’s perfectly executed seventh-inning squeeze bunt that plated freshman Alana Norman with the winning run after the Chieftain’s Laura Luther had tied the game with a home run in the top of the inning.

“It was a full suicide squeeze,” said coach George Lynn. “I had my fastest kid running and it was a textbook bunt.”

Norman, a left-handed hitter, had slapped a double inside third base with one out and moved up on another such hit by Allie Burger.

Lynn said that while Johnson isn’t their best bunter, she is a clutch player. Johnson said during bunting drills she’s had to run the most for failure to execute.

But Norman was running on the second pitch to her and she put the ball down perfectly.

“I was so nervous,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know if Alana caught the sign and was freaking out. The ball was low and I had to lay it down. As soon as I did I knew we won the game.”

Shadle had scored three runs in the first inning, but the Chieftains caught up at 3-3, only to have pitcher Haylee Cushner single home Danielle Lynn for a 4-3 lead in the third. She pitched out of difficulty until the seventh-inning homer.

Earlier in the day Johnson, had three hits, drove in a pair and scored twice during victory over Blanchet.

Shadle Park battered its foe for 13 hits and scored in every inning but the second.

Megan Skillingstad hit a ball that bounded over third base for two first-inning runs.
The Highlanders were ahead 3-1 into the fourth, but, in contrast to the first game loss erupted in the bottom half of the frame scoring five times to put the contest away.

Among the hits was the first of back-to-back two-run doubles by No. 8 batter Kali Reid. Katelyn Harvey was 3-for-4 and scored twice.

 “I’m glad we showed up for the second game,” said coach George Lynn, facetiously. “We should have done that the first game. There was no difference in the pitchers, but we came out flat (in the first game) and couldn’t recover.”

 

The Highlanders scored in the first inning, although a second run that frame was nullified on an obstruction call. They left the bases loaded in the second and two on in the fourth, dodged a couple of threats by Port Angeles and led 2-1 entering the sixth.

That was when the Roughriders batted around to take control of the game.

Shadle leadoff batter and small ball catalyst Burger, her right wrist still taped to protect a wrist fracture, went 4-for-4. She led off the second game with a hit fifth straight hit and, with a 3-for-4 final game, finished 8-for-10 for the day.

Cushner, who strugged late against Port Angeles, came out firing against Blanchet. Though not as sharp in her third game of the day, she remained effective.

“That’s the best I’ve seen her throw in a long time,” said Lynn of her middle game effort. “I hadn’t seen her throw that hard or in so command of her pitches.”

North Central: The visitors in both games, NC drew first blood twice. Leadoff batter Emily Gelbach smacked a two-out, two-run double the opposite way to left against Prairie for a 2-0 lead in the second inning. The Falcons tied it in the third and smacked three extra base hits in the decisive fourth.

Pitcher Echo Barline had pitched out of a two-error jam in the first inning and in the second when the Indians booted another ball. But two errors in the third prolonged the inning and another in the fourth was followed by a two-run double and run scoring triple.

“The errors killed us, broke our backs,” said coach Herm Marshall. “That’s a pretty good hitting team and we gave them too many outs.”

In the second game against Juanita, a couple errors and passed ball put the Indians in front 3-0. The Rebels cut the lead to 3-2 in the third before Katherine Lively doubled home a run in the fifth.

However, Juanita followed with a seven-hit inning including four doubles, three in succession. One, a pop over first base, hit chalk. The others had eyes to the left field side and NC found itself in an 8-4 hole.

Lively finished 4-for-4 in the game with two doubles and RBIs. She said she looked for a first pitch strike inside. Gelbach hit and scored twice, the latter following a triple to right field.

“We really didn’t think we’d be here at the beginning of the season,” said Lively. “It was really fun. We’re young and hopefully next year will come back again.”

It will be with a new coach. This was Marshall’s final weekend at the helm.

“I’m proud of how we got the leads early,” he said, “and how they finished. They didn’t give up.”

 


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