Get the ball in play and good things will happen.
The old adage every baseball and softball coach has surely said countless times couldn’t have described Ferndale softball team’s 5-2 win over Mount Baker any better.
The Golden Eagles capitalized on four Mount Baker errors in the second and third innings to score four unearned runs on Thursday, April 30, at Mount Baker High School.
“That’s key, I think, to winning,” Ferndale coach Holly Hilton said. “You can’t win, if you can’t score. In order to score, you got to put the ball out there.”
And Ferndale (13-1, 7-1 NWC) wasted no time in attempting to get the bat on the ball. The Golden Eagles put the ball in play on the first pitch 15 times, capitalizing on Mountaineers pitcher Aleks Toivola’s tendency to throw strikes early in counts.
The Golden Eagles tagged Toivola with seven hits on the evening.
“We didn’t want her to get ahead and then have to deal with her junk,” Hilton said. “Aleks can throw off the plate really well. She has offspeed, up, down, she has it all. We didn’t want to see that.”
Despite hitting it hard frequently early in counts, the Golden Eagles still needed help from the Baker defense, which was uncharacteristically sloppy for two innings.
In the second inning, Drew Westford hit a hard line drive to left field, which hit the glove of the Baker outfielder and dropped to the ground, towing the line between single and error. A sacrifice bunt and a groundout moved Westford to third before Lauren Maley’s grounder to the left side of the infield was bobbled, allowing Westford to cross home.
An inning later, Toivola picked up two quick outs before another error on a ground ball put Scarlett Nyenhuis on base.
Then Abigail Bauthues, who went 3 for 4, smashed a ball into left center for a double. Bauthues blasted another pitch to the same spot for a triple later in the game.
“I just wanted to hit the ball,” Bauthues said. “I went up there wanting a base hit.”
With runners on second and third, Westford hit a hard ground ball to third base, but it was once again fumbled, allowing Nyenhuis to score.
Kadence Kane hit a grounder to the left side a pitch later and a low throw to first was mishandled and Bauthues scored to make it 3-0. Then Toivola threw a pitch into the dirt and the catcher couldn’t get in front of it, as Westford crossed the plate for the second time in the contest.
“I thought we played well. We had a couple balls in play we didn’t make but we were right there,” Baker (10-5, 4-4) coach Ron Lepper said. “Unfortunately we fumbled the ball around a little bit and gave them four unearned runs. Take that away and who knows?”
Baker tried to battle back, scoring a run in the bottom of the third after Sara Verry’s 11-pitch at-bat resulted in a double and Jordan Miles drove her home after a bunt moved her to third.
In the fourth, Baker picked up another when Akemi Schwinden’s double was followed by Kaylea Sleveland’s triple.
“Very high stress,” Hilton said of the final three innings. “I know they can go through their lineup at any moment and make stuff happen. They’ve very scrappy.”
But Ferndale’s star in the circle wasn’t going to let that happen. Maley didn’t allow a hit over the final three innings, including striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh.
“I saw Lauren really concentrating and working her game,” Hilton said. “I saw Mount Baker hitters moving in the box, trying to figure her out and making really good adjustments. ... Drew did a good job of changing the pitch calling.”
Toivola had a strong game of her own, throwing seven innings, allowing seven hits and striking out two, and despite taking her fourth loss of the season was praised by her coach.
“I thought Toivola pitched her butt off,” Lepper said. “Unfortunately, we let her down a couple times.”
Ferndale will take on Blaine on Friday, May 1, at home, while Baker will finish the season with three of five games against Class 1A opponents, starting with Lynden Christian on Monday, May 4, on the road.
Ferndale 5, Mount Baker 2