It surely couldn’t happen again.
For the second straight day of the Class 1A Bi-District Softball Tournament, Nooksack Valley was locked in a bottom of the seventh inning tie with opponent runners on second and third base in a winner-to-state game.
On Thursday, May 21, a grounder to the right provided the dagger to the Pioneers. On Saturday, May 21, a bloop hit by South Whidbey’s Anne Madsen in front of the shortstop was enough to score the winning run.
And in heartbreaking fashion, Nooksack Valley’s 12-year streak of getting to the state tournament was over with a 3-2 loss to the Falcons.
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“It’s tough. It’s not fun,” understandably frustrated Pioneer coach Tom Harmon said. “When you play for competition and the stakes are what we’re at, you want to be successful. Any kind of competitor doesn’t like losing a tough game. We had two tough ones and that’s hard. It’s just no fun. It sucks.”
And it has to be even worse for the Pioneers’ two seniors, one of which — Alexis Pike — was in the circle for both losses.
Pike once again had a great outing, striking out nine, walking one and only allowing five hits.
But it was errors that cost the Pioneers.
The first runner that scored for South Whidbey got on base because of an overthrown ball. The final run was unearned also, as Aria Ludtke’s popup to the pitcher was dropped by Pike to leadoff the inning.
“We were our own best friend and our own worst enemy,” Harmon said. “When you get to this level you got to take care of your chances. ... We’re about getting there and we just fell short today.”
After a two-run third inning, the Pioneers clawed their way back to a tie in the fourth and fifth.
A leadoff walk by senior Olivia Berkan in the fourth was followed by an Emilia Gimmaka single through the right side of the infield and two infield hits to score Berkan.
The fifth was another series of hits, starting with Brianna Turner’s single and then a Pike double, a bunt hit by Cassidy Zylstra and Berkan’s bloop single over the second baseman.
“Resilient. They came back, got it going, got it tied,” Harmon said. “They’re a great group. We love them. They’re dynamite kids to be around at practice and that’s probably what makes it the hardest thing. They deserve, because of who they are and how they play and how they work at it, to go to state.”
The Pioneers defeated Meridian 10-0 in five innings in the consolation semifinal to get the chance to play South Whidbey. Emilia Gimmaka was the star of the first contest, as she rocketed a two-run shot in the second inning that was just barely inside the left field foul line.
Mount Baker wins second consecutive district title
Senior Aleks Toivola threw a nine-strikeout shutout and the Mountaineers topped Sultan 6-0 in a Class 1A Bi-District title game.
Akemi Schwinden went 3 for 4 with two RBI, senior Emily Yost went 1 for 3 with an RBI and Toivola helped her cause by going 2 for 4 with two runs and a double.
It was a textbook game for Baker, which was playing in its fourth consecutive district title game.
“It was just nice to finish with a win, especially with the three seniors we have,” coach Ron Lepper said. “They’ve been a huge force for us to get Mount Baker softball to the level we’re at right now. They’ve been a big part of that since freshman year.”
The other senior is leadoff hitter Lacey Postlewait.
Baker was able to withstand the heat of Sultan fireballer Shelby Jeffries and pick up runs in the first, third and fifth innings as the Mounties stuck to the gameplan of just getting the ball in play and forcing the Turks to make plays.
“They have an outstanding pitcher,” Lepper said. “Facing a pitcher of that caliber is always nice going into the state tournament, just knowing you can battle against a girl like that.”
The state tournament begins Friday, May 29, in Richland.
LC puts up fight but falls short
Lynden Christian and its seven seniors weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Trailing 3-1 in the seventh inning, the Lyncs scored a run and had the tying run on second before South Whidbey recorded the final out, ending the Lyncs season with a 3-2 loss.
“No doubt about it; they wanted it extremely bad,” LC coach Mitch Moorlag said. “For this team to keep fighting and fighting and fighting, I couldn’t be more proud of every single one of them.”
Freshman Sam Van Loo “pitched her rear end off,” Moorlag said, and freshman Avery Dykstra picked up a double and a triple to provide hope for the future of LC softball.
“We got a core group of freshmen and sophomores that are already licking their chops and are hungry to get better for next year,” Moorlag said.
Still, it’s bittersweet for the Lyncs coach, as he also loses seven seniors that exemplified the hard work LC put in this season.
One of those seniors Moorlag made sure to make special mention of.
“Jenah Korthuis absolutely led this team with her work ethic every single day,” Moorlag said.
Meridian shows improvement in elimination
Trojans coach Megan Monaghan knew this season was going to be an uphill battle. A young cast of players coming off a very tough year with a new coach is never easy.
And the results showed that struggle. After a season-opening win, the Trojans lost 16 in a row until they hit their turning point.
Meridian topped Blaine on May 15 to end the losing streak and then came back and tied the second game of the doubleheader with the Borderites before the game was called to darkness.
“I think after the two Blaine games, they felt that competitiveness and they liked that feeling,” Monaghan said. “We improved our overall team morale, our attitudes toward the game, our competitiveness altogether.”
So while Meridian’s season ended Saturday with a 10-0 loss to Nooksack Valley in five innings, the Trojans sparked new life in the program.
“The only place to go is up,” Monaghan said. “I’m really excited.”
Many of the centerpieces of 2015 will return next season, including Bailey Carpenter, Bailey Haugen and Keana Waugh, all of which recorded hits Saturday against Nooksack Valley.
Nooksack Valley 10, Meridian 0 (5 inn.)
WP: Alexis Pike. LP: Eve Castro. Highlights: Nooksack: Arlissa Oettel 1-4, RBI; Maddi Myhre 2-3, 3 RBI; Olivia Berkan 1-3, RBI, R; Emilia Gimmaka 1-3, 2 RBI, HR, 2 R; Payton Linville 1-1, 2 R. Meridian: Keana Waugh 1-3; McKenna Smith 1-3; Bailey Haugen 2-2; Bailey Carpenter 1-2, 2B.
South Whibdey 3, Lynden Christian 2
WP: Mackenzee Collins. LP: Sam Van Loo. Highlights: LC: Avery Dykstra 2-2 2B, 3B; Lauren Huleatt 1-2, RBI; Jenah Korthuis 2-3.
Mount Baker 6, Sultan 0
WP: Aleks Toivola. LP: Shelby Jeffries. Highlights: Mount Baker: Akemi Schwinden 3-4, 2 RBI; Aleks Toivola 2-4, 2 R, 2B; Emily Yost 1-3, RBI, 2 R.
South Whidbey 3, Nooksack Valley 2
WP: Mackenzee Collins. LP: Alexis Pike. Highlights: Nooksack Valley: Arlissa Oettel 1-4, 2B; Maddi Myhre 1-4, SB; Brianna Turner 2-4, R; Alexis Pike 1-4, 2B; Cassidy Zylstra 1-3; Olivia Berkan 1-3, RBI; Emilia Gimmaka 1-4; Rachel Sande 1-3; Payton Linville 1-3, RBI.