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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Skillingstad, Trudeau carry Shadle

TACOMA – It’s impossible to lose a softball game when you don’t yield any runs.

Or any hits for that matter.

The Shadle Park Highlanders, carried by the almost unhittable right arms of senior Stephanie Trudeau and freshman Sam Skillingstad, advanced to the semifinals of the State 4A softball tournament Friday at SERA Fields.

The Greater Spokane League champion Highlanders, 25-2 after the twin 3-0 wins over North Kitsap and Sumner, will face undefeated Woodinville (25-0) this morning at 11, with a berth in the 5:30 p.m. final at stake.

Only one of the other two GSL teams that reached Tacoma is still playing because U-Hi and Mead faced off in a loser-out game. U-Hi’s Titans won the fourth meeting of the year 1-0.

The Titans opened with a 3-2 comeback win over Decatur before being handcuffed by Skyview’s Whitney Baker in a 7-1 quarterfinal loss. Mead’s first defeat came in the first round, 7-3 to Tacoma’s Wilson High, but the Panthers bounced back with a 2-0 elimination win over Kentlake (22-7).

The only thing Shadle eliminated was its opponents’ offense.

The Highlanders’ opening win over North Kitsap was almost perfect, as defined by Trudeau (12-0) being only a dropped fly ball away from perfection.

The senior, who is headed to Dartmouth in the fall, dominated the Vikings, striking out 14 in throwing her third no-hitter of the season. Only Shayla Urie reached base on a sixth-inning error.

By then, the Highlanders had scored their runs, thanks in large part to Rachael Kramer’s wildness and her teammates’ errors.

Natalie McNeal opened the fourth with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Randi Sandifer. Stephanie McVay was walked intentionally before Skillingstad lofted a fly ball to shallow right. When it was dropped for an error, the bases were loaded.

Kinzie Powell forced home the first run with another walk and, after a force at the plate, Krista Zappone’s ground ball up the middle was booted and two more runs scored.

That was enough for Trudeau.

“She was stellar,” Shadle coach George Lynn said. “The first game of a tournament like this is the most important game, and she gave us exactly what we needed.”

But at state there’s always another important game and Friday was no exception, with Sumner, undefeated until a district loss to Kentlake, and pitcher Lisa Holombo waiting.

This time Lynn gave the ball to Skillingstad and she responded with 12 strikeouts, one walk and one hit – a sixth-inning grounder to left by No. 9 hitter Evyn Beal – and no scoring threats.

“She’s the best pitcher we’ve faced all year,” Holombo said of Skillingstad (13-2). “Her rise ball really hops and it was nearly impossible to hit because of the strike zone.”

“When I saw that the umpire was giving Sam the high strike and taking away the low one from (Holombo), I knew one run would be big,” Lynn said.

Instead of one, the Highlanders scored three in the bottom of the first, the first two on a bases-loaded single to right field by Kinzee Powell.

Powell stole second, with Skillingstad racing home from third when the throw went into center field. But despite the first-inning momentum, Shadle couldn’t push across another run against Holombo.

U-Hi got off to what should have been a momentum-building start with its last-inning win over Decatur, courtesy of Theresa Tveit’s RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Tveit, who had dunked a game-tying single to left in the fifth, hit the first pitch she saw from Rachael Painter to left-center, scoring Angie Boardman from second with the game-winner.

“It seemed her first pitch was the best one to hit,” Tveit said “It was up. I had to go up there with some confidence because there were two out and we needed it.”

What the Titans needed in the nightcap was a few more timely hits. They stranded seven runners against Baker, a junior who has already committed to attending UCLA. The only run they scored was again supplied by Tveit, who led off the fourth by lining a shot to right that was misplayed into a triple. Two strikeouts later – Baker finished with 14 – she was still at third, but Baker unleashed a wild pitch and Tveit scored.

The Storm raced around the bases, starting in the third when Baker and Kayla Kuretich each doubled off Linse Vlahovich (20-4) to score three runs.

Vlahovich, who limited Decatur to four hits and one earned run while striking out 10 in the opener, gave way to Mandy Mikelson after Kuretich’s double, but the Storm kept coming, scoring two unearned runs in the fourth and two insurance runs in the seventh.

Mead gave away its opener, handing Wilson six unearned runs, including four in the second.

The Panthers made fewer mistakes against Kentlake, but almost ran themselves out of it. In the fourth inning of a scoreless game, Chantal Hughes-Gardner led off with a double but was thrown out at third trying to stretch it.

Megan Thigpen, who had doubled home two runs in the first game, followed with a triple. When Kim Watson’s fly to left was dropped, Thigpen raced home.

Watson (22-7) made it stand up.

In the nightcap, Mandy Daniels, who had U-Hi’s only two hits, scored the lone run of the game when she beat the throw home on Ashley Patterson’s fifth-inning ground ball. From there, Vlahovich weathered two Mead rallies for the win. The Panthers end the year 22-8. The Titans will face North Kitsap at 11 this morning in a loser-out game.

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