Nooksack Valley’s Olivia Berken needed 16 innings of outstanding pitching to clinch a spot in the Class 1A State Tournament, and it seemed to her as though her team combined for at least that many brilliant defensive plays and clutch hits in two memorable wins at Janicki Fields.
“We definitely played our best (in all categories) and we played with grit,” said Berkan, who pitched the Pioneers (13-9) to a 3-1 opening round win over South Whidbey in the Northwest District Tournament on Thursday, May 19, and to a 9-2 nine-inning semifinal victory over top seed Lynden Christian (14-6), which had a first-round bye. She allowed only one earned run.
“Words can’t express how much I love this team,” said the durable senior, whose pitching carried seven basketball teammates to their second state tournament of the year. “We played with intensity and they gave me great support.”
Nooksack had only six hits in the first eight innings against LC sophomore Sam Van Loo, but scored twice in the third inning on Arlissa Oettel’s double, Maddi Myhre’s RBI single and Brianna Turner’s RBI double. Van Loo singled home Avery Dykstra in the first and LC tied it in the seventh on a single by Anny Jansma and an umpire’s ruling that Hollie Scott avoided a tag at first base while the tying run scored.
But the Pioneers erupted for seven runs in the ninth, which began with a runner on second via the tiebreaker rule. Cassidy Zylstra and Rachel Sande were safe on infield singles and Jami Tresselt broke the tie with a two-run single. Emilia Gimmaka followed with an RBI single and Jasmin Zavala’s grounder plated the fourth score.
Myhre, who went 3 for 5 with two RBI, singled home a run, Turner hit an RBI single and Berkan capped the rally with an RBI double.
Nooksack’s 14 strikeouts against South Whidbey star Mackenzee Collins didn’t faze the Pioneers in the opener. Singles by shortstop Oettel and catcher Turner – both of whom turned in several outstanding plays – produced a run in the fifth and Gimmaka’s double, Zavala’s perfect bunt, two errors and Turner’s RBI double resulted in the tie-breaking and third runs in the seventh.
BAKER STAYS ALIVE
In the championship semifinals, Sultan’s Shelbie Jeffries – who has signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo – struck out 16 in a 2-1 win over Mount Baker (14-8), meaning the Mounties must win two games Saturday along with still-alive LC and Meridian to claim the district’s third state spot. Akemi Schwinden doubled twice and scored for Baker.
Sultan’s Grace Low hit a run-scoring shot in the first, knocking out Baker star Tara Chambers when the ball struck one of her legs hard. In the sixth, Jeffries tripled and scored on a double by Kyrah Willson, despite an all-out effort by Baker center fielder Jordan Miles, who injured her shoulder trying to make the catch against Jeffries. Baker coach Ron Lepper said he hopes Miles can play Saturday.
Jeffries will face Nooksack for the district title.
In the opener, Chambers and Emily Brandland pitched Baker over Cedar Park Christian 15-5. Brandland hit a grand slam and double for seven RBI, while Schwinden had a double, single and four RBI and Miles had two hits.
Meridian (7-14) rebounded from a 12-1 one-hit loss to Sultan’s Jeffries and came back to stay alive with a 12-4 win over Cedar Park behind Emma Weg’s eight-strikeout complete game. Keana Waugh tripled and went 2 for 3 with an RBI; Madeline Gray was 2 for 5 with a double; Bailey Haugen hit a two-run double; an Bailey Carpenter had two hits and two RBI.
“We’ve had progress,” said Meridian coach Megan Monaghan, the former Mount Baker star. “We had seven wins so far and we had only five last year.”
Nooksack will face Sultan (also 13-9) for the district title at 2 p.m. Saturday. In loser-out games at noon, Baker will face South Whidbey (4-17) and Meridian will meet LC, with the survivors playing for the district’s third state spot.