Eagles soar into playoffs
Arguably the best high school softball team in Eastern Washington has quietly zipped through league play undefeated.
Now the West Valley Eagles are setting their sights on bigger feats.
Coach Paul Cooley’s crew is 16-1 overall, having lost its season opener 6-5 against Colville after opening a 5-0 lead. The Eagles concluded league play at 18-0, extending their conference winning streak to 35 games.
Cooley, who coached 17 years previously at Rogers, where one of his teams finished second in state, didn’t flinch when asked how good his team is this spring.
“I’ve had some pretty good teams and we went to state a number of times at Rogers,” Cooley said. “This is the best team I’ve coached.”
It’s a team Cooley expects to make a deep run into the postseason.
WV has everything from pitching to hitting.
“We’ve got hitters one through nine in the lineup,” Cooley said.
Just the other day his ninth hitter, junior Jackie Noble, hit a home run.
On the mound, the Eagles have been led by senior Kelli Peckham, who is 10-1 overall with a 0.22 ERA. She has 147 strikeouts, five walks and allowed just two earned runs. She’s thrown three no-hitters and two one-hitters and split on another one-hitter.
“She’s one of the best pitchers in the state,” Cooley said.
Peckham plans to continue playing at Northwest University in Kirkland.
Her backup has been senior Brooklyn Robinson, who is 6-0 with a 1.00 ERA. She has 58 strikeouts and has thrown one no-hitter, two one-hitters and combined with Peckham on another one-hitter.
Robinson is going to play at Clairmont College in Los Angeles.
A third pitcher who would have been in the mix before she transferred to Mt. Spokane midway through her sophomore season was Kaitlyn Bauman.
“We’re pretty fortunate that our pitching has been so dominant,” Cooley said.
WV has 11 shuouts.
At the plate, WV has been just as impressive.
Sophomore Katelyn Sage has the top batting average at .569 (33 for 58). She’s followed by Robinson (.527, 29 for 55) and freshman Natalie Noble (.517, 30 for 58).
Junior Cassie Finn leads with 31 RBIs and Sage has 29. Finn and Robinson are tied for the team lead in home runs (four each).
WV’s team batting average is .445 and the Eagles have a .617 on-base percentage.
“Those are incredible numbers,” Cooley said.
The hitting should continue next season. The Eagles graduate just their pitchers.
“Other than the fact that we’re going to lose our pitching we’re going to be fine,” Cooley said.
Cooley credits a strong league for helping his team develop.
If the Eagles want to challenge for a state title, they’ll have to bolt down the defense.
“The further you go all the teams have people who can hit the ball,” Cooley said.
WV and Cheney get first-round byes when the District 7 2A tournament begins today.
No. 6 seed Medical Lake travels to No. 3 Clarkston and No. 5 Deer Park is at No. 4 East Valley in a pair of loser-out openers at 4 p.m.
The tourney continues Thursday when Cheney plays host to the Medical Lake-Clarkston winner and WV takes on the Deer Park-EV winner, also both at 4. The championship game is Saturday. The top three teams advance to regionals.
• In Idaho, 5A, 4A and 3A teams will decide state berths beginning today.
In 5A Region I, defending state champion Lake City is stronger than ever and is heavily favored to capture the regional title.
Today, No. 1 seed Lake City plays host to No. 4 Post Falls at 2 p.m. At the same time at Finucane Park, No. 2 Coeur d’Alene takes on No. 3 Lewiston.
The winners play at 4 at LC for the regional title. The losers play at Finucane at 4.
Loser of the title game plays the winner of the loser-out game on Thursday for a second berth to state.
• In 4A Region I, No. 3 Sandpoint faces No. 2 Moscow today at Lakeland at 3. That winner meets No. 1 Lakeland at 5:30.
The championship game is scheduled for Thursday. Just the regional winner goes to state.
• The 3A District I tournament is Friday and Saturday at Timberlake.
In games Friday, No. 5 Bonners Ferry takes on No. 4 Kellogg in a loser-out contest at noon. Then No. 3 St. Maries faces No. 2 Priest River at 2 followed by the Bonners Ferry/Kellogg winner taking on No. 1 Timberlake at 4.
The title game is Saturday. The top two teams advance to state.