Ferndale’s softball team gave a vivid demonstration of why coach Holly Hilton says the team has “the best offense and best defense,” not to mention some of the best pitching, in her 22 seasons as coach.
What really gratifies her, however, is “how really hard we’ve had to work for all that.”
But don’t get the idea the Golden Eagles might become complacent. Hilton is well known for guarding against anything like that.
Ferndale’s 13-3 Northwest Conference win over Nooksack Valley in five innings on Tuesday, April 28, was a solid example of Hilton’s pride.
For that matter, despite the score, the loss showed why Pioneers coach Tom Harmon, in his 30th season, never has a Nooksack team that hangs its heads no matter what happens.
Third-year regular Abigail Bauthues began a 12-run third inning with a line-drive three-run homer, her fourth of the season. She added a two-run single in the same inning and finished 3 for 3 with 5 runs batted in.
It was the first time Bauthues — who beat Anacortes a day earlier with a walk-off home run in the eighth inning — has slammed homers in consecutive games for the Golden Eagles.
Every Ferndale starter had at least one hit and scored at least one run, showing why the Golden Eagles (12-1 overall, 6-1 NWC) came into the game with 129 runs in their first dozen games.
The other big hit in the 12-run inning was Drew Westford’s two-run single for the final two runs.
“What made me happiest was how we made adjustments to recognize the pitches (by Nooksack ace Alexis Pike) after our first two (scoreless) innings,” said Hilton, happily drawing a diagram showing how her hitters bought into the necessity of moving up in the box against Pike (8-3).
The result was by far the roughest inning of the season for Nooksack (11-5, 4-4) as the Golden Eagles sent 17 hitters to the plate, resulting in nine hits, six Nooksack errors and 12 runs.
The next inning, consecutive doubles by Dana Ebe and Erika Ebe produced the 13th run, which turned out to be enough to end the game on the 10-run rule after five innings.
That gave third-year Ferndale pitching ace Lauren Maley (10-1) a welcome short outing after her 3-2 eight-inning win over Anacortes the day before.
The Pioneers, who came in with 106 runs and seem to have a shot at returning to Class 1A state, recovered to play well in the last two innings.
Nooksack’s Olivia Berkan, who went 2 for 2 with a double, pitched two scoreless innings in relief after the two doubles by the Ebe sisters.
The Pioneers tried hard to extend the game, scoring twice in the fourth on Berkan’s double, a hit by Rachel Sande for the first RBI, a single by by Payton Linville and Maddi Myhre’s line single for the second RBI. Myhre doubled in the first inning and scored on Pike’s two-out single.
In the wake of Maley’s 14 strikeouts against Anacortes, the Pioneers were tough enough at the plate to limit their strikeout total to four — never more than one in an inning. The ever-tough Maley twice struck out the side against Anacortes.
Berkan, Pike and Myhre each had two hits against Maley, last year’s Bellingham Herald Whatcom County Player of the Year.
Hilton was especially pleased to see her No. 6 through 9 hitters pound consecutive singles, making possible the big third inning for the Golden Eagles, who are 34-5 since the start of last season.
“If we had adjusted at bat that well against Lynden (a 2-0 eight-inning loss to the league-leading Lions), I think we might have won that game,” Hilton said.
Harmon fully expects his teams never to give up, even if only to make the score more respectable.
“That’s not what life’s about,” Harmon said of his educational mission to keep his players’ determination going. “We got our world rocked a bit.”
The Pioneers, who won 11 of their first 12 games, have lost three in a row, all against higher-classification teams with state tournament hopes.
Ferndale’s No. 8 hitter, Skylar Robison, provided one of the highlights of her season with two hits. The team’s defensive gem was a stop and throw in the fourth by third baseman Amanda Baker.
The Golden Eagles next play at Mount Baker on Thursday, April 30. The Pioneers will face their alumni on Saturday, May 2, before wrapping up the regular season with four league games, beginning Tuesday, May 5, with a major challenge at Lynden.
Ferndale 13, Nooksack Valley 3 (5)