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Highlanders ready for playoff test

Last year Shadle Park – with a team featuring seven sophomores and two freshmen – finished second in the State 4A softball tournament, its best finish in school history.

Seven of those youngsters and a total of nine players are back with a year’s more experience. How far will it take them?

Coach George Lynn was willing to surmise this could be his best team.

“It’s always tough when you have to face four (left-handed batters) out of the chute and then have some righties who can get some RBIs as well,” he said.

Shadle has speed to burn from its top four lefties on the basepaths and power behind them. The Highlanders have outscored GSL foes 262-8 while winning 19 games this year. The Highlanders had six of the top 12 hitters in league entering last week, led by China Frost‘s .593, and seven are hitting .452 or higher.

The only question is how the defense can handle it if a team puts the ball in play. Shadle fielders handle fewer than five chances per game and have committed 15 errors.

During three wins last week Sam Skillingstad pitched two perfect games, striking out 29 of 30 batters and fanned 13 of 15 in a no-hitter, meaning her fielders handled but three chances all week. She now has 249 strikeouts, an average of 2.3 per inning.

The three-time league champion Highlanders will look to complete a second straight unbeaten season today at home against co-second place University (which has scored 226 runs and allowed 29) and then it’s on to the playoffs.

“I can’t wait,” said Skillingstad last week. “I’m excited to see what we can do. I hope we can take it all the way.”

A six-year wait

University’s soccer team last won district and qualified for state in 2001, the year before Kevin Houston became head coach.

Last year they finished eighth in league and have annually been a sixth-seed in the 4A District 8, only to be eliminated in the first round.

What a difference a year made. The Titans (10-4-1) finished second in league and were district top seed. On Friday they defeated Lewis and Clark 2-1 to qualify for state.

Houston credited senior leadership and their willingness to embrace the young players as integral parts to the team.

“They were able to focus on the things they needed to get better,” Houston said. “Look at the team we have on paper and there’s nobody who really stands out. They’re all solid players and the biggest difference was the heart they put into it.”

U-Hi will travel next weekend against the Columbia Basin League district champion for state seeding.

Lewis and Clark plays Mead Tuesday for the opportunity to host the CBL second-place district finisher for the third regional state berth.

•East Valley which defeated West Valley-Yakima in a 3A regional match, now advances against Kamiakin, which last year was the 4A regional champ and state top seed.

Wildcats will be tested

Mt. Spokane, runaway winner of the Greater Spokane League, now tests itself against the tough 3A Division of the Columbia Basin League.

The eight-team regional baseball tournament, weighted heavily toward the CBL, begins tomorrow when the Wildcats (18-2) host Kamiakin (13-7), CBL 3A co-champion and No. 2 seed into the tournament.

The two teams are part of a four-team double-elimination bracket that includes No. 3 Southridge, which plays at No. 1 Kennewick (15-5).

Southridge was a 4A regional finalist last year.

In the four-team loser-out bracket, North Central (12-8) will host the CBL No. 5.

Mt. Spokane coach Alex Schuerman watched a Kamiakin doubleheader last week.

“They swing it pretty good and have a couple of good pitchers on the bump” he said.

Patrick Forgette, at one point hitting .550, tops among CBL 3A players, and three others, including Brady Farrington at .400 were among statistical leaders.

Joey Edminster and Nick Opitz are top Kamiakin pitchers.

Mt. Spokane finds out this week if Nick Purser, who injured his throwing forearm, can play the outfield in Tuesday’s game. He will be unavailable to pitch, Schuerman said.

But it hasn’t effected his hitting. Purser had six hits, including a triple and two home runs last week. Nic Fowler will be the Wildcats starter.

“We’re chomping at the bit for the post-season,” Schuerman said.

Playoffs will continue Friday at home sites and conclude Saturday at Mt. Spokane.

•District 4A competition begins Wednesday at Avista Stadium, with a pair of loser out games. Ferris (11-9) plays Shadle Park (7-13) at 4 p.m. and Central Valley (10-10) follows against Gonzaga Prep (9-11) at 7. The tournament continues Friday and Saturday.

Great Northern League 2A District play begins Tuesday with Colville at Clarkston and Medical Lake at Cheney, winners advancing Wednesday to West Valley and Pullman.

Chewelah (11 a.m.) and Lakeside (1:30 p.m.) play 1A regional games against Caribou Trail League foes Tuesday at Avista Stadium with the winners meeting at 4 for a state berth.

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