Not a lot was riding on the outcome Monday afternoon when Mead hosted district rival Mt. Spokane in what was originally scheduled as the last regular-season softball contest for both.
No playoff berths, as both had already qualified for the postseason that begins later this week, Mead as either the first or second seed in the 4A districts, Mt. Spokane as the second or third in the 3A.
No league title, as University had already clinched the Greater Spokane League crown.
Nope, nothing but north Spokane County bragging rights.
Those now reside at Mead as the host Panthers completed a season sweep of Mt. Spokane, building an early three-run lead and holding on for a 5-4 victory.
“It’s always relieving as a pitcher when you have confidence in the bats and get ahead early,” said winning pitcher Hannah Beloved (8-3), who limited the Wildcats to three hits and an unearned run in five innings.
The offense was a combination of timely Mead hits (Kylie Bremner, who pitched the final two innings, had two RBIs with a couple singles), productive at-bats (Macy Gonzalez’s RBI groundout and Hailey Shanholtzer’s successful squeeze) and suspect Wildcats defense (only two of Mead’s runs were earned).
And though Beloved was sharp – she walked two and struck out three – she wasn’t overpowering. But at times the defense behind her was.
“Without my outfield, without my infield, I wouldn’t be the pitcher I am today,” she said.
And the Panthers wouldn’t have made plays, coach John Barrington said, if they hadn’t been aggressive.
“Confidence makes those plays; we tell them not to be afraid to make them,” said Barrington after feting his seniors after their final home game of the season. The Panthers (12-5 in GSL, 13-6 overall) will make up a game at Rogers today, lost in the season’s wet start.
“The tough thing is, we never practice,” Barrington said. “We don’t get a chance. If we’re practicing, it’s in the gym. What we need to do is get out here, bounce around in the dirt and execute some plays.”
The lack of practice didn’t seem to bother the Panthers outfielders on a sun-drenched day.
Right fielder Ashley Ayala made a long run to track down Sydnee Kilburn’s looper down the line to steal a sure double in the fourth.
Centerfielder Ashlynn Bocook came up big in the top of the seventh after Mt. Spokane (10-7, 10-8) had scored three times, the third one coming on Markee Jackson’s single to center, scoring Nicol Leavey from third with two outs.
But Bocook charged hard and made a perfect throw to the plate, forcing Mt. Spokane coach Carl Adams to hold Kayelyn Bauman at third.
And, following Jackson’s hit, Emily Hastings powered the first pitch to deep left. Left fielder Ashley Patterson, who had already robbed Hastings of a sure double earlier, broke toward the line and ended the game with a running catch just inside the foul line.
“We’ve been asking the girls to make plays down the stretch,” Barrington said. “We haven’t been in position to make too many plays at times. And when faced with (making plays) we’ve crumbled.
“Today, we came through with a game-winning catch, really.”