Prep Baseball & Softball

Benson leads Lions softball to win over Pioneers

Tanna Benson has fulfilled her longtime dream of being recruited by a college softball team, but the hitting pitcher — or is that pitching hitter? — is in no hurry to leave Lynden.

The versatile senior is having more high school fun than she ever imagined.

Benson hit two home runs and a walk-off double with her best show of power and pitched a three-hitter for her 10th consecutive win in Lynden’s 12-2 five-inning Northwest Conference victory over Nooksack Valley on Tuesday, May 5.

The game was a showcase for the batting depth of the league-leading Lions (15-1 overall, 9-0 NWC), who had 16 hits as nine players had at least one. They won their 15th in a row after a season-opening non-league loss to Ferndale.

Benson hit a pair of two-run homers, then finished the game on the 10-run rule with an RBI ground-rule double in the fifth following birthday girl Mandy Warner’s third hit and Ally Dahm’s second single.

“That second home run surprised me,” said Benson, who has committed to Linfield College, which boasts one of the West Coast’s best Division III programs and has qualified for its divisional World Series.

“Coach (Steve Petersen) is always telling us that after you hit a home run, you have to return to fundamentals and just swing for a base hit,” said Benson, who has eight homers. “I sure wasn’t thinking of another home run. At first, I didn’t think I hit it that well.”

Petersen’s team boasts power — “We have about 20 home runs,” he said — and makes the most of the newer composite material of which women’s bats have been made in recent years.

“In the seven seasons from 2005 (his first as coach) through 2011, we hit only one home run,” Petersen said, acknowledging Benson’s wisdom to follow his advice about the now more-common circuit clouts.

“I’m sure glad I (as the coach) don’t have to pitch to Tanna,” Petersen said.

Benson acknowledged her pitching wasn’t as spectacular this time out, not that she wasn’t solid.

“It took me a while to find my spots,” said Benson, who gave up two unearned runs on a two-run single by Nooksack cleanup hitter Alexis Pike in the third and struck out only one over the first three innings. “Nooksack’s hitters cover the zone pretty well. I definitely couldn‘t have done well today without my defense.”

Petersen agreed after Benson gratified him by retiring all seven hitters she faced — four by strikeout — after giving up Pike’s two-strike, two-out, two-run single up the middle following an inning-opening infield hit by Payton Linville.

“Since Tanna gave up 12 runs (only six earned) to Ferndale in our opener, today was the most runs she has allowed in a game,” the coach said.

Indeed, since outslugging Sehome 14-13 in Lynden’s third game, the Lions have allowed the grand total of 11 runs in 13 contests.

Petersen praised Nooksack’s competitiveness.

“I thought Nooksack (12-5, 4-5) had a real good approach at the plate, 1 through 9,” he said, talking of how the Pioneers battled Benson hard.

The Lions robustly sang “Happy Birthday” to Warner on her 18th, but Benson pointed something else special — the attractive, large concession stand that Jenna Bonsen built as her senior project.

“That was an awesome senior project for Jenna,” Benson said. “The crowds love it and it adds to the whole stadium atmosphere. Jenna did a great job.”

Bonsen hammered nails throughout the winter to complete the job, then continued pounding the ball along with the entire team. She had a RBI double in the fourth following the second hits by Kaylee Vis and Hannah Rothwell.

Lions shortstop Elisa Kooiman put an odd spin on a second-inning hit to the right-field corner and hustled out a triple, driving home Sara Collins, who hit a full-count single. Warner singled home Kooiman to make it 4-0.

Lynden next welcomes Northwest District 2A title contender Anacortes on Friday, May 8. On the same day, Nooksack has a tough home challenge against fellow Class 1A state tournament hopeful Mount Baker.

Lynden 12, Nooksack Valley 2 (5)

Nooksack Valley

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WP: Tanna Benson (10-1). LP: Alexis Pike (8-4). Highlights: Nooksack: Pike 2-2, 2 RBI; Payton Linville 1-2. Lynden: Tanna Benson 3-4, 2 HR, 2B, 5 RBI; Mandy Warner 3-4, RBI; Kaylee Vis 2-3; Hannah Rothwell 2-2, RBI; Jenna Bonsen 1-3, 2B, RBI; Elisa Kooiman 1-3, 3B, RBI; Ally Dahm 2-2; Sarah Collins 1-2; Taylor Eshuis 1-3, RBI.    

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