How well did Ferndale’s Lauren Maley and Lynden’s Tanna Benson pitch against each other?
This well: Their Northwest Conference title-contending powerhouses came in averaging 21 runs between them, yet the stellar match-up was scoreless through seven innings on Thursday, April 2.
Cleanup hitter Hannah Rothwell, Lynden’s leadoff batter in the eighth, lofted her sixth home run of the season and senior newcomer Sara Collins singled home Kaylee Vis, giving the Lions a superbly played 2-0 softball win.
“That was as good a high school pitching game by both teams as I’ve ever seen,” said Steve Petersen, in his 11th season as Lynden’s head coach. “This was like (the standout) pitching back in the 40-foot days, before they changed the pitching distance to 43 feet in the 2010 season.”
Ferndale coach Holly Hilton totally agreed.
“That was the best game ever,” said Hilton, in her 22nd year.
Hilton was as proud as could be of Maley — last year’s conference MVP when the Golden Eagles enjoyed a 12-0 league record — but she gave Benson full credit.
“Tanna Benson was just lights out,” Hilton said. “Steve really kept us off balance (with his pitching coaching). But I really feel bad for Lauren. She just pitched so hard.”
In a match-up of teams that combined to win 40 games last season and seem to have strong shots to return to state tournament competition, Lynden (9-1 overall, 3-0 NWC) extended its win streak to nine games at the expense of Ferndale (7-1, 2-1). The Golden Eagles out-slugged the Lions 12-9 on March 16 in the non-league season opener for both teams.
Maley (6-1) struck out 11, walked one and allowed four hits. Benson (5-1) fanned nine, walked two and permitted only a fifth-inning single by Ferndale’s Abigail Bauthues.
Rothwell, who struck out in her first two at-bats against the talented Maley — who has signed with St. Martin’s College — refused to let that both her.
“I learned she was getting in my head,” said Rothwell, a 5-foot-11 senior slugger who recently signed with Lower Columbia College. “I just focused better and tried to play for my team.”
Rothwell’s psychological success resulted in a stunning high shot over the right-center field fence — especially considering all the goose eggs to that point — off a fastball. It was the ninth homer of her career.
“I think five of Hannah’s homers this year have been to right-center or right,” said Petersen. “She really knows how to use the whole field. I really think she’s just starting to scratch the surface. Hannah has a huge future in the game.”
Collins, who attended middle school in Lynden, played softball the past three years in Ketchikan, Alaska. She splits time in the outfield with Ally Dahm.
“I thought Sara was looked pretty competitive in her first at-bat (despite a strikeout),” said Petersen of Collins’ biggest hit yet for the Lions, especially coming with two strikes. “She’s played in some pretty big games in her career. I wish I had some great answer that was strategic (for why he brought her back using the re-entry rule), but I was going on a hunch.”
Vis — whose line shot to center in the fifth was Lynden’s lone hit off Maley through seven innings — singled solidly to right following Rothwell’s homer. After Jenna Bonsen’s sacrifice bunt, Collins lined a run-scoring single to left with two outs before Maley got her 11th strikeout.
“The team has accepted me well for someone barging in for my senior year,” Collins said with a thankful grin.
Hilton marveled at the numerous fielding gems by both sides, including a game-ending scoop on a dive by Lynden’s fine sophomore shortstop, Elisa Kooiman. She shoveled to freshman second baseman Megan Paoli to end the memorable game.
“There was just so many great plays,“ Hilton said.
Ferndale’s sophomore catcher, Drew Westford, threw out runners trying to advance in the fourth and fifth innings. In the seventh, shortstop Kadence Kane completed an unassisted double play to first baseman Erika Ebe.
For Lynden, Benson made a remarkable leaping grab in the circle to end the sixth inning, depriving Kane of a possible run-scoring hit with Ebe on second base. Ebe worked a walk during a 13-pitch at-bat, putting Lynden in danger of losing.
In the seventh, Lions third baseman Vis ranged to the Ferndale dugout to snag a high, tricky foul pop, ending the inning with a runner on base.
The Lions definitely impressed Hilton.
“I think Lynden has a very strong shot (at doing well) at state,” Hilton said of the Lions, who took third in last year’s Class 2A tournament.
In their past seven games, the Lions have now allowed a mere six runs behind the pitching of Benson and the versatile Rothwell.
Ferndale next plays on Friday, April 3, at home against Blaine. Lynden next faces Mount Baker April 14.
Lynden 2, Ferndale 0 (8)
WP: Tanna Benson (5-1). LP: Lauren Maley (6-1). Highlights: Lynden: Hannah Rothwell 1-3, HR, RBI; Kaylee Vis 2-3, run; Sara Collins 1-2, RBI. Ferndale: Abigail Bauthues 1-3.