This one was for the seniors.
So proclaimed sophomore Gracee Dwyer, whose offensive contribution sparked University to its eighth Greater Spokane League District slowpitch softball championship on a sunny Tuesday afternoon on its home field with a 13-3, five-inning victory over Mead.
Although the Titans (21-1 overall) lost only once in finishing atop the league, Dwyer said the key to victory Tuesday “was playing together more as a team.”
“We had struggled some the last few games,” she added, noting that with it being the last game for seniors Lexi Ivankovich and Rachel Hawley, who “have been very motivating for us all year, we just wanted to come together for them.”
With Dwyer going 3 for 3 with two doubles and three RBIs, the Titans banged out 21 hits, including six doubles, in thwarting the upset bid by Mead (16-7).
“They just hit the ball where we weren’t,” Mead coach Steve Bagdon said, praising the Titans.
He noted that what he considers one of the strongest qualities of the youthful Panthers, their defense, took a beating because “they just ripped the ball. “
U-Hi coach Jon Schuh agreed that the Titans’ hitting was a big factor, plus he felt, “defensively, we played much better where we had been having some problems.”
Schuh said the key to the game was the first inning. Mead had the bases loaded, but managed just one run on a Destiny Scott single, “and we responded” with a four-run bottom of the first. Dwyer drove in the first two with her first double and the Titans were on their way.
U-Hi added some distance with a five-run third in which five Titans drove in runs – Dwyer and Brianna Hecker with doubles and Natasha Nelson, Hawley and Sierra Apodaca with singles.
Mead chipped away with singles runs in the fourth, on a Sadie Bocook double, and top of the fifth on Ciara Harding’s fielder’s choice out.
But the Titans put it away in the bottom of the fifth with four runs to reach the 10-run mercy rule. Hannah Click singled in a run, pinch-hitter Kylee Hughes doubled home two and Kirsten Anstrom ended it with a run-scoring single.
U-Hi has played in every district championship game in the 10 years slowpitch has been an official sport in the GSL. It was Mead’s first appearance in its fourth year in the league. But may not be its last. The Panthers graduate only one senior and Bagdon said he has “a core group of girls who brought us along” to reach the title game after the overcame some injury problems early in the season.
The Panthers are only the third different opponent U-Hi has faced. Central Valley has played in six title games, winning twice, including last season. Rogers and North Central have been the other finalists.
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