Surely part of the reason the sun was shining Friday afternoon at Whitworth’s Marks Field had to be from the reflection of Jessica Moon’s smile.
The University junior put the punctuation mark on an early-season slump that led to some time on the bench by going 3 for 4 as the Titans edged the Mead Panthers 3-2 in the District 8 4A championship softball game.
“My bat wasn’t working and my defense was going downhill,” Moon said. “With all the stress of school and moving from second to shortstop this season, it was so hard on me. I sat in the middle of the season and didn’t start. It was probably one of the best things, because I was kind of jeopardizing our team. So being able to come out and let the team pick up my slack was really great. It motivated me to work hard in practice and take extra groundballs and work on my swing. Now here I am going 3 for 4. It’s just a great feeling.”
University (16-5) advances to the regional tournament, which it will host beginning Friday.
Mead (17-4) also is headed to regionals, but has a seeding game remaining. Gonzaga Prep (11-9) and Lewis and Clark (8-13) meet at 5 p.m. Monday at Whitworth in a loser-out game. The winner meets Mead at 3 p.m. Tuesday, also at Whitworth, to decide the second and third regional seeds.
U-Hi had opportunities to win the game more comfortably, but the Titans stranded 12.
The Titans opened a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, and they did it with two outs. Breann Warren hit a run-scoring triple and she scored on a single by Ashley Moon.
Mead evened things at 2-2 in the bottom of the inning. The Panthers also did so with two outs. Jill Pecka had a triple, scoring Jordan Hardy who had reached on a walk, and Lauren Stewart scored Pecka with a triple. Pecka’s blast hit about a foot from the top of the 9-foot-high left-field fence.
U-Hi’s winning run came in the fourth and was unearned. Brittany Connor, who reached on an error, scored when Alene Bethel also reached on an error.
It was U-Hi’s third win in as many tries against the Greater Spokane League champs.
“Mead had a great (regular) season and I give it to them,” Moon said. “They earned the GSL title. We needed to prove ourselves. We just came out here and laid it all on the line. We just proved we could do this.”
U-Hi coach Jon Schuh agreed with Moon.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’d have loved to have won the GSL title, too, but Mead had a great season,” he said. “Hopefully, the GSL represents next weekend.”
Three U-Hi pitchers – Mollie Buelow, Devynne Johnson and Brittany Hecker – combined to limit Mead to three hits, a season low.
“That was the difference, obviously,” Mead coach John Barrington said.
“Their pitchers did a great job. We just didn’t hit the ball like we have been.”