Spartans fastpitch wins KingCo tourney
May 29, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Annika Hildebrand isn’t known as a power hitter, but she picked a very good time to collect her first home run as a high-school player.
The Skyline Spartans’ third baseman clobbered a three-run homer over the center-field fence. Those runs proved to be the difference as Skyline held off the Issaquah Eagles, 7-6, in a loser-out game at the Class 4A KingCo Conference fastpitch tournament May 20 at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore.
In the bottom of the third inning, Skyline (15-7) took a 4-3 lead on Natalie King’s RBI single. Hildebrand then stepped to the plate and drilled a pitch from Issaquah’s Kylie Bevell, making it 7-3 in the blink of an eye.
“I had two strikes on me, so I just hit whatever I had to,” Hildebrand said, noting that she didn’t think the ball was leaving the park. “It was the first time I’ve jogged around the bases.”
Skyline and Issaquah (12-10) split their two regular-season meetings, and the Eagles weren’t about to go quietly. Coach Ron Hatlen removed Bevell in favor of Winter Ridgeway, and the junior proceeded to hold the Spartans scoreless over the final three innings, striking out eight of the 11 hitters she faced.
In hindsight, Hatlen said, he might have started Ridgeway, but she’d thrown 170 pitches a day earlier in a nine-inning win over Bothell.
“She wanted in there, and all she did was what Winter has done for us all year,” Hatlen said. “She led the league in strikeouts, innings pitched. She’s matured. She used to get way down when stuff happened. Now she just lets it bounce off of her.”
Issaquah trimmed its deficit to two in the fourth inning as leadoff hitter Jennifer Morse singled and Sydney Schultz followed with a two-run homer off Skyline’s Caroline Bowman.
Skyline’s lead remained 7-5 until the seventh, but Ridgeway dropped an infield hit in front of shortstop Lauren Lo to score Justi Johnson. With two outs and the tying run at third base, Bowman coaxed a game-ending ground ball from Jessica DeFelice.
Bowman was battered a bit, giving up 12 hits, but struck out seven and only walked one.
“Not my best outing, but we got done what we needed to,” the freshman said. “Defense was huge – they backed me up every play. It’s nice knowing they have my back.”
Issaquah set the tone in the top of the first inning, getting three runs on four hits, including run-scoring singles from Amelia Cunningham and Ridgeway.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as Skyline scored three in the bottom of the first. Madisen Camp-Chimenti’s two-out, two-run single was the key blow.
Skyline’s successful season is due in large part to the quick maturity of its nine freshmen. Hildebrand, a sophomore, noted that many of the girls have basically grown up together, playing select softball with and against each other.
The Spartans have likely surprised a lot of opponents who were overlooking them.
“It’s so exciting, because coming in with the nine freshmen and not having won any playoff games, no one really expects anything from us, so it’s nice to prove them wrong,” Bowman said.
Newport’s hot bats end Eastlake’s season
In the nightcap of the May 20 tournament doubleheader at Inglemoor, the Eastlake Wolves tried to keep their season alive against a Newport Knights team they’d beaten easily in late April.
But the Knights (12-8) showed why they were the KingCo Crown Division champions, using a five-run sixth inning to pull away for an 11-7 victory.
Newport had 10 hits off Eastlake pitchers Mikel Charles and Julie Graf, and got a huge game from junior outfielder Sydney Tomlinson, who was 3-for-5 with five RBIs.
“You’ve got to give credit to that team over there,” Eastlake coach Rob Zahn said. “We beat them 10-3 earlier in the year, and they responded tonight. I thought they did a great job. It’s a really good team over there and they should be proud of themselves.”
Tomlinson gave the Knights a 5-0 cushion in the second inning by hitting a two-out, two-run double off Charles. In the sixth, she ended Charles’ night in the circle by crushing a 3-1 fastball for a three-run homer.
“That home run really kind of broke our backs a little bit,” Zahn said.
The Wolves (12-10) had plenty of good moments against Newport pitcher Kat Wood, finishing with 12 hits, including five doubles.
Eastlake cut Newport’s lead to 5-3 in the third as the Knights’ left fielder dropped Maddie Coats’ fly ball, allowing two runs to score. Charles hit a two-out double to score Coats.
Abby Goux, who finished 3-for-3, stroked a two-run double in the sixth for Eastlake, while Charles and Naomi Rodriguez had RBI doubles of their own in the seventh.
But the Wolves found themselves in a hole too deep to climb out of.
“I just got done telling them they can walk off this field knowing that they fought to the bitter end,” Zahn said. “That’s all you can ask of these kids. I’m proud of them, and I’m going to miss them.”
Eastlake graduates four seniors, but key contributors like Coats, Charles, Olivia Palenscar and Corina Jones will be back.
“I don’t think I’ve seen six harder outs a team had to get. Girls were stinging the ball,” Zahn said of Newport’s 11-3 lead in the sixth. “… Being young like we are, this will be a good experience for our underclassmen to come back and remember this feeling and get better from it.”