Sehome softball coach Jim Emerson knew his team would have to deal with Port Angeles’ talented pitcher Nizhoni Wheeler as the Mariners prepped for Friday’s Class 2A state tournament quarterfinal game at Carlon Park.
He didn’t count on Wheeler delivering the knockout punches from the batter’s box.
The senior right-hander blasted a pair of solo home runs to stake herself to a lead and delivered the expected commanding pitching performance as the Roughriders ended the Mariners’ dreams of a state title with a 4-0 win.
The exhausted Mariners hopes of bringing home a trophy for the first time ended a couple hours later in a 10-4 consolation loss to East Valley.
Including a wild 14-12 opening round over Ridgefield, Sehome finished the season with a 23-3 record.
The crazy win over Ridgefield, in which the Mariners led 13-5 before giving up seven runs in the final two innings and needing a solo home run from Carissa McDowell in the top of the seventh to provide the winning margin, eventually took a toll on the Mariners.
“They did a good job of coming back at us and coming back at us,” Emerson said. "The nice thing for us is every time they came back, we went right back at them.”
While the team waited for the delayed quarterfinal to start, Emerson noted that some of his players were already struggling with the 85 degree heat and broiling Central Washington sun. They seemed to run out of gas late in the East Valley contest even as the sun set, making three uncharacteristic errors – the squad made only 10 during the regular season, Emerson said -– in the sixth inning as the Red Devils broke a close contest open.
“We made some errors that are very uncharacteristic of us,” Emerson said. “This is the first time in a situation like this at the state tournament for some of these girls.”
“I told the girls, ‘You’ve got to remember where you’re at,'” Emerson said after the Ridgefield win. “These teams aren’t going to roll over die no matter who they are.
“And now we have to go against an even better pitcher,” he said speaking of Wheeler.