Softball coaches know now’s time to peak
It’s something every coach in every sport hopes to see: their team peaking at the right time.
Think Green Bay Packers last season, or, closer to home, Gonzaga Prep boys basketball.
Several area fastpitch softball coaches, particularly those at West Valley, Mt. Spokane and Ferris, sense their teams are playing their best as the season winds down.
West Valley blanked Cheney 10-0 to win the 2A district championship Saturday.
“Probably one of the best games we’ve played all year,” head coach Paul Cooley said. “It’s nice to do that at the right time.”
West Valley (22-0) faces Grandview and district runner-up Cheney meets Othello in loser-out games Saturday in Selah. Both Great Northern League teams can clinch state berths with wins. Selah (22-2) and Ellensburg have secured state berths, but seeding will be at stake when they face the winners of the loser-out games.
The Eagles have put together some staggering numbers. They’ve outscored opponents 213-13 and their team batting average is .420. League MVP Brooklyn Robinson hit .629 with a .773 on-base percentage. Kelli Peckham (10-0) pitched seven shutouts and Robinson two. They also had three combined shutouts.
The Eagles had nine All-GNL selections, including first-teamers Robinson, Peckham, Cassie Finn, Gabbi Espindola, Jess Mitchell and Katelyn Sage. Senior Leah Peterson, a second-team selection, is the only holdover from the last West Valley squad to qualify for state three years ago.
In 4A, Ferris lost two close games to Mead during the regular season but knocked off the top-seeded Panthers 5-1 for the district crown. At one point, Ferris was 3-7 but coach Laurie Smith’s team heated up over the second half of the season.
The Saxons are one regional win from returning to state for the first time since 1998.
“They play hard, they’re pretty intense and Laurie has a lot of good help on her staff,” Mead coach John Barrington said. “If we had to lose to anybody, I’m glad it was her because she’s done a good job.”
Mead will face the winner of today’s Central Valley-Lewis and Clark game to determine the district’s second and third seeds to regionals. The Panthers are trying to return to state for the first time since 2005.
In 3A, Mt. Spokane thumped No. 1-seeded University 9-1 to claim the district title, avenging 13-2 and 3-2 regular-season losses to the Titans. The Wildcats enter the regional tournament on a five-game winning streak.
“It feels good to be playing well,” coach Carl Adams said. “I think we’re throwing strikes, playing defense and we’re just trying offensively to put the ball in play. It’s not always pretty, but it’s worked for us.”
The Wildcats advanced to state last season. As the district’s top seed, they avoid a loser-out game and need one regional win to nail down a state berth.
GSL champion University has dropped two of its last three. The Titans committed seven errors against Mt. Spokane after committing seven errors over their previous six games.
“Luckily, because of how we did in league, we get an opportunity for a little do-over, but the road is tougher because we have to play a loser-out game,” U-Hi coach Jon Schuh said. “Hopefully, we can flush (the Mt. Spokane game) and go on. That’s what I expect and the girls have been tough all year.”
In 2A, Vanessa Ahrendt tossed a five-hitter as Lakeside defeated Northeast A regular-season champion Colville 6-2 to capture the district title. Those two teams will be joined by Riverside at Saturday’s regional tournament.
“Other than her perfect game against Chewelah, I thought that was her most dominant performance,” Lakeside coach Chuck Moffatt said of Ahrendt. “She stayed ahead of the hitters and did a great job.”
Lakeside (20-2) has a first-round bye. Colville (18-4) and Riverside face loser-out contests and need two wins to earn trips to state. Colville’s four losses are to Lakeside (two), unbeaten West Valley and unbeaten Lake City.
“I fully expect to play Colville again,” Moffatt said. “That’s just what we’re expecting.”