Pioneers roll in play-in game


EVERSON - Lindsay Hayes never realized the first grand slam of her life would feel "like a hailstorm."

Olivia Berkan never knew how hitting the ball over a fence would feel at all.

Hayes hit two home runs and drove in five runs and Berkan, a sophomore, enjoyed the thrill of a homer for the first time in Nooksack Valley's 13-0 five-inning win over Bellevue Christian in a Class 1A Tri-District play-in game Thursday, May 22, at Nooksack Middle School.

The Pioneers (11-13) will join Lynden Christian and Blaine in first-round, loser-out games Saturday at Janicki Fields. Class 1A District champion Mount Baker, already assured of a state spot, has been seeded directly into the title game.

Nooksack will open at noon against Cedar Park Christian. One way or another, the Pioneers must win two of a possible three games Saturday to earn one of the five state spots from Tri-District.

"I had never hit a grand slam anywhere," said Hayes, a center fielder who came into the game with one home run this season, which was her first in four years at Nooksack. "When the girls all tapped on me (in a wild celebration), it felt like a hailstorm."

Hayes' no-doubt-about-it slam, well over the center field fence on a regulation-size field, gave the Pioneers a 7-0 lead in the second inning.

"I've been waiting for this feeling for so long," said Hayes, a three-sport standout who has enjoyed numerous big moments. "This is one of the best (individual) feelings I've had in sports."

Berkan unloaded a long fly to center for a two-run shot in the fourth inning, resulting in another wild celebration.

"It was amazing, just the best feeling ever, because I had never hit a home run, never hit a ball over the fence," said Berkan, giggling with joy at what came next for the softball loving girl.

"Pete (Robbin, coaching first base) told me to make sure I touched all the bases. I don't think he knew if I knew what to do," Berkan said with a laugh of sheer delight. "At first, I thought it was a high pop."

Kayla Struiksma, continuing her pattern of solid post-season pitching, allowed one hit to the Vikings (6-9) in the first three innings. Alexis Pike, who went 3 for 3 and drove in a run, allowed one hit in two innings.

"I've worked hard on (combining) speed and location," said Struiksma, who came off a six-inning no-hitter against Friday Harbor - the first of her career - at district. "I usually hit my spots pretty well."

What made coach Tom Harmon happiest?

"Just watching all those smiles," said Harmon, whose only seniors are Struiksma, Hayes and clean-up hitter Chloe Gardner, who went 2 for 3 and drove in Hayes with Nooksack's first run with a two-out single in the opening inning.

"What feels best is just seeing the girls still playing, still controlling their own destiny," said Harmon.

Cassidy Zyslstra and Pike opened Nooksack's eight-run second inning with singles. Three walks later, Hayes hit her slam and the "hailstorm" was on.

Maddi Myhre, a freshman called up from the junior varsity in the final week of the regular season, twice worked bases-loaded walks in the eight-run inning.



Bellevue Christian 000 00-0 2 1

Nooksack Valley 181 3x-13 11 1

WP -- Kayla Struiksma. LP -- Katie Pippel. Highlights -- Nooksack Valley: Lindsay Hayes 2-3, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R; Brianna Turner 1-3, R; Chloe Gardner 2-3, RBI, R; Kayla Struiksma 1-3, RBI; Cassidy Zylstra 1-2, R; Olivia Berkan 1-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2R; Maddi Myhre 2 BB, 2 RBI.

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