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NC’s offense slumbers in state debut

TACOMA – North Central’s State 3A softball appearance was brief, but two successive losses couldn’t diminish the Indians’ thrill of playing in their first state tournament.

The Indians lost 8-0 to Black Hills of Olympia and touted pitcher Tara Curtis, and 3-1 to Liberty (Issaquah) in opening-day games at SERA Fields.

NC managed just one first-inning hit in the opener, and fell victim to one unfortunate inning in the second game.

Jami Schibel scored NC’s only tourney run in her final game, singling in the fourth, moving up on Bri Scott’s single and, after Alicia Kahler’s sacrifice, coming home on Raeanne Cumbie’s grounder to second.

Shortstop Schibel and catcher Scott are two of four seniors whose careers ended with a memory. Their gloves and bats will be missed next year, but six other starters and 10 team members – four of them freshman – return.

Against Black Hills, NC took advantage of Curtis’ wildness and a single by Kahler to load the bases with two outs in the first. But the Indians had only one baserunner thereafter. Curtis retired the final 14 and finished with 14 strikeouts.

“I think (Curtis) found our weakness,” said Cumbie, a junior who had made a diving catch in center field in the third. “She threw inside and was milking it for what it was worth.”

The Wolves got all the runs they needed in the first on an RBI triple by Kelsey Haupert and an RBI double by Kayla Lindahl.

A five-run third, featuring another RBI triple by Haupert, put the game away. Cleanup hitter Haupert finished 4 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs. She had two of Black Hills’ five extra-base hits.

“We’ve seen pitchers, especially from the top three teams in our league, who are stronger than (Curtis), I think,” said NC coach Herm Marshall. “But we hadn’t seen them in three weeks and it hurt us a bit and she pitched well.”

Kahler had a strong defensive game, with four putouts and three assists.

“In the first inning I usually don’t play well,” said Kahler. “I was confident and had the game in my head.”

NC fell behind Liberty in the first inning of its second game. But it was a two-run second, that included a couple of bloop hits over second baseman Kahler, that put the Indians in a hole.

Freshman pitcher Kelcie Vallies shut down the Patriots after that, but NC’s offensive drought continued.

Marshall called their first state tournament a good experience.

“It was definitely eye-opening,” Marshall said. “It’s the first time we’ve done this and we kind of got caught up in the atmosphere here more than anything. The thing about this game is, if you don’t score some runs, you don’t win.”

Today’s semifinals are Black Hills (17-4) against Kelso (17-5), and W.F. West (17-7) against Columbia River (17-3).

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