Lynden sophomore star Breanna Swendt was not intimidated by unbeaten Sehome’s overwhelming batting statistics. Sehome sophomore ace Savannah Smith was not unnerved by her team’s closest challenge of the softball season.
The result: Sehome (22-0) clinched a berth in the Class 2A state tournament with a 4-2 win over Lynden (15-7) in the Northwest District Tournament semifinals Wednesday at Janicki Fields. But the Lions and pitching standout Swendt still have a shot at qualifying for state.
The Mariners, now with 242 runs, 43 home runs and a team batting average of better than .420 – all unheard of since the Northwest Conference switched to fastpitch about two decades ago – will face Mountlake Terrace on Friday for the district title. Mountlake beat Anacortes 3-2 in the other semifinal.
Lynden, which beat Lakewood 11-4 in the first round, must win two games Friday to become the only state qualifier out of the consolation bracket, which now also includes Anacortes, Cedarcrest and Granite Falls.
Smith (19-0), who came into districts with a 1.51 earned-run average, weathered six Lynden hits in the final two innings. But she gave up only two runs in that tense span for Sehome, which had not won by fewer than four runs all season.
“I felt pressure, but I did not think I felt nervous,” said Smith, who struck out four and has 168 strikeouts in 95 innings.
Sehome’s Tori McDowell, who came in batting .578 and hit two homers in the Mariners’ 10-0 first-round win over Granite Falls earlier Wednesday, lined a two-run shot over the left-field fence for a 4-0 lead over Lynden. Her homer followed No. 9 hitter Maryellen Burfeind’s clutch single with two outs in the fourth.
“Yes, it does,” Tori said with a grin between games when asked if twin sister Carissa McDowell’s 15 home runs and .623 average help provide motivation. “It helps me to step up and be a leader. We did not go to state last year.”
Swendt (14-6) struck out five against Sehome and has 133 strikeouts against 31 walks. She has given up 26 earned runs in 129 innings.
THE BIG HITS
Sehome cleanup hitter Megan Hall (.492 coming in) stroked an RBI single in the first and Natalie Zender had a sacrifice fly in the third against Lynden.
Against Granite Falls, fine-fielding shortstop Lauren Dodge, who came in batting .442, went 4 for 4 for Sehome with two doubles and three runs. Tori McDowell drove in four runs with her two homers, while Hall had an RBI double and Zender went 2 for 2 with a fence-rattling two-run double in the Mariners’ five-run third. Carissa McDowell drove in two runs, including her game-ending RBI single on the 10-run rule, and Hannah Webster (.426) had one RBI.
Lynden’s Megan Paoli, Alexis Fredin and Elisa Kooiman singled in the sixth to produce the first run against Smith, but she got the final two outs while presenting a poker face. Smith was likewise poised in the seventh even though Lauren Groen singled and Paoli doubled with two outs for the second run. Fredin lined her third hit of the game, but Smith got the last out on a high, hard fly to Tori McDowell in center.
Against Lakewood, Blakely Doerge and Teylor Eshuis each drove in three runs for Lynden, including Doerge’s two-run double and two run-scoring hits by Eshuis. Olivia Wittenberg also had two hits.
Bellingham ace Eliza Rossman (15-5) wound up the season with 280 strikeouts – about two per inning – but the Red Raiders fell to Cascade Conference-champion Cedarcrest (21-1) in a loser-out game 8-2 despite a dozen whiffs for Rossman. Earlier, Bellingham (15-7) fell to Mountlake Terrace 5-0 and Anacortes upended Cedarcrest 5-4.
Bellingham coach Rick Ellis, in his sixth year, saw Linfield College-bound Rossman and star shortstop Lindsey Richard, both seniors, quickly mature well enough to advance to district three consecutive seasons after the Red Raiders failed to qualify for more than a decade.
“It’s all about the kids and our staff,” said Ellis, who had only three seniors. “They’re a fine group.”
A STATE HELP
“This close game will definitely help us at state,” said Sehome ace Smith, who was quickly echoed by longtime coach Jim Emerson.
“What can you say about 22-0?” said a proud Emerson. “I knew we’d be good … but the kids and coaches have done a good job of staying focused (despite numerous lopsided wins).”
Lynden coach Steve Petersen couldn’t hide his pride in giving Sehome a genuine scare.
“We’ve got a great bunch of kids,” he said. “I’m always proud of them. And we’re still alive!”