It started slow and the ending wasn’t great, but Mount Baker’s softball team is going to the Class 1A State Tournament.
The Mountaineers topped Meridian 12-2 in the opening round of the Class 1A Bi-District Tournament and then held off a late charge from South Whidbey in an 8-4 win in the bi-district semifinal on Thursday, May 21, at Janicki Fields to secure their spot.
It was quite a surprise to see the Mountaineers trail the Trojans after three innings, and there’s different arguments for why that was the case.
Pitcher Aleks Toivola thought it might have been being too hyped up.
Never miss a local story.
“A lot of it was we were so eager to hit the ball, we weren’t being patient enough,” Toivola said.
Coach Ron Lepper figured it was probably just playing a team for the third time this season and the second time in a week.
But the bats finally came around for the Mountaineers in the form of a seven-run fourth inning kickstarted by Jordan Miles RBI-single with the bases loaded. Toivola jumped on after that with a two-RBI single of her own and the rest is history.
The bats again got a slow start against South Whidbey, until Madie Gates got an RBI hit to score the first run of the game and start a six-run fourth inning.
“Their pitcher did a nice job of keeping us off-balanced and we hit the ball well but right at people,” Lepper said. “We were able to break the lid a little and get something going and then put together a big inning, where they made some mistakes and we got some big hits. That combination was good for us and wasn’t so good for them.”
The Mountaineers will play Sultan on Saturday, May 23, for the bi-district title in a game that means little more than seeding.
To have state secure on day one though is huge, Lepper said. “That’s the result of working hard in the regular season to get the No. 1 seed to give you a chance to do that. It’s a great reward for them. I’m proud of them.”
Nooksack Valley loses heartbreaker in semis
Grit with a smile on her face. That’s Nooksack Valley pitcher Alexis Pike summed up as simple as possible and it characterizes exactly what the Pioneers have been all season.
Pike took a 9-2 victory over Cedar Park Christian and extended it into one of the most thrilling softball games of the year, allowing only two runs on six hits during a 2-1 loss to Sultan in the bi-district semifinal.
Pike struck out four batters through the first two innings against Sultan and the Pioneers were up one run, courtesy of a single by Arlissa Oettel and a perfect bunt by Brianna Turner in the first inning.
The senior pitcher allowed a homer in the third inning but stuck in it and gave her team a chance despite a noticeable limp for the back half of the game.
The homer was her only blemish until the seventh inning, as she even got out of a bases loaded, no-out jam in the fifth.
Unfortunately a triple and some smart play by Sultan in the seventh inning got the winning run in, pegging Pike with the loss and depriving the Pioneers of clinching a spot at state on the first day of the tournament.
“There’s a couple things we wanted to get done that we didn’t and in a game like that execution is huge,” coach Tom Harmon said. “But you can’t fault us for the amount of grit and hard work we put in for seven innings. We just came up a little short.”
With some small ball in the first inning, it looked like the Pioneers might have had the secret to figuring out how to top powerful pitcher Shelby Jeffries, who was the talk of the tournament as she loomed over everyone with a 6-foot frame and fiery fastball.
But the bats went silent for the Pioneers after that and now they’re forced into a loser-out situation against Meridian on Saturday, May 23, at Janicki Fields.
Trojans surprise and then surprise again
If you thought Meridian was going to be a punching bag for the top District 1 and 2 teams, you thought wrong.
The Trojans came out swinging the bats against Mount Baker in a 12-2 loss and swung them some more in a 8-3 win over Forest Ridge
“I’m extremely happy,” Meridian coach Megan Monaghan said. “We played well in the first game and that carried on into the second.”
With a pitch-to-contact thrower in the Mounties’ Toivola in the circle in game one, the Trojans’ strategy was to come out and be aggressive. It led to a couple costly Mount Baker errors and a 2-1 lead through three innings, as Keana Waugh and Claire Burkett both crossed the plate.
“Before the game I just told them to relax, forget about the pressure and just have fun up there,” Monaghan said. “That’s exactly what they did. ... I’m very proud of them.”
But some defensive miscues and Baker’s power caught up to the Trojans in the fourth, as the Mounties pulled away for the win.
“Baker’s a good-hitting team and that’s what good teams do,” Monaghan said. “But we fought to the end so that was fun.”
Waugh went 2 for 3 with two doubles against Forest Ridge and Bailey Carpenter went 3 for 4 with an RBI, as Eve Castro got the win in the circle in game two.
Lyncs hang on to win in loser-out game
After a slow game at the plate against the powerful Jeffries in a 10-3 loss to Sultan, the Lyncs were relieved when they found out they would be the visiting team against Cedar Park Christian.
They just wanted the chance to put some runs on the board, coach Mitch Moorlag said.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The Lyncs scored 10 runs in the first three innings and held on in the seventh to top Cedar Park Christian 14-11 to preserve their season for at least two more days.
LC will face South Whidbey in a loser-out game on Saturday, May 23, at Janicki Fields.
“It’s unfortunate when one of two teams is going home and their seasons going to end,” Moorlag said. “Our girls want to go to practice tomorrow. They were really looking forward to a victory so they can be together another day.”
Against South Whidbey, Sam Van Loo went 3 for 5 with three runs and an RBI, Riley Van Hulzen went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI and Hollie Scott went 4 for 5 with three RBI, as Allison Smit pitched a scrappy few innings in relief of Sam Van Loo to get the win.
“Right away in the first inning we put a lot of good swings on the ball to score two runs,” Moorlag said. “Hitting is a very contagious things so we were able to score a few more. It was a matter of who was going to score more. I mean 14-11, everybody was hitting.”
Mount Baker 12, Meridian 2 (5 inn.)
WP: Aleks Toivola. LP: Emma Weg. Highlights: Baker: Jordan Miles 2-3, RBI, 3B, 3 R; Aleks Toivola 2-4, 2 RBI; Kaylea Sleveleand 2-2, 3 RBI. Meridian: Madeline Gray 2-3, SB; Claire Burkett 1-3, R.
Nooksack Valley 9, Cedar Park Christian 2
WP: Alexis Pike. LP: n/a. Highlights: Nooksack Valley: Maddi Myhre 3-4, 2 R, RBI; Olivia Berkan 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 R; Emilia Gimmaka 4-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI.
Sultan 10, Lynden Christian 3
WP: Shelby Jeffries. LP: Sam Van Loo. Highlights: LC: Hollie Scott 1-3, RBI; Sam Van Loo 1-3, RBI.
Sultan 2, Nooksack Valley 1
WP: Shelby Jeffries. LP: Alexis Pike. Highlights: Nooksack Valley: Arlissa Oettel 2-3, R, SB; Brianna Turner 1-3, RBI; Olivia Berkan 1-3, 2B, SB.
Mount Baker 8, South Whidbey 4
WP: Aleks Toivola. LP: n/a. Highlights: Mount Baker: Toivola 3-4, 3 RBI, 2 R, 3B; Kaylea Sleveland 2-4, 3B, R; Madie Gates 1-3, RBI, R.
Meridian 8, Forest Ridge 3
WP: Eve Castro. LP: n/a. Highlights: Meridian: Keana Waugh 2-3, 2 2B; Bailey Carpenter 3-4, RBI; Claire Burkett 2-4; Bailey Haugen 2-4
Lynden Christian 14, Cedar Park Christian 11
WP: Allison Smit. LP: A. Nelson. Highlights: LC: Sam Van Loo 3-5, 3 R, RBI; Riley Van Hulzen 3-5, 2B, RBI; Hollie Scott 4-5, 3 RBI; Avery Van Dykstra 2-4.