The 2016 Class 2A State tournament was a learning experience for the Lynden Lions.
The Lions learned they could battle toe to toe with one of the state’s elite pitchers – as they did against Port Angeles star Nizhoni Wheeler in their opener.
They learned they could bounce back strongly from disappointment as they did with a five-run first inning in their consolation bracket game against Sequim.
But on the scoreboard the Lions lost both contests and were eliminated from the tournament at Carlon Park, losing to Port Angeles 11-8, and, to Sequim 11-10. Lynden, with only one senior and three juniors on the roster, finished the year 18-8.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Wheeler was every bit as good as advertised in the opener, holding the Lions to just four hits. Two of those hits were home runs – a second inning three-run shot by Olivia Wittenburg and a sixth-inning three-run blast by by Alexis Fredin in the sixth inning.
Fredin’s blast was a boost emotionally for Lynden as it came on the heels of the second three-run homer of the day by Port Angeles sophomore Natalie Steinman. It also got the Lions back into a position where they had a shot to win the game.
“They’re 22-0 for a reason but every time they did something, we answered,” Lynden coach Steve Petersen said. “That’s exciting to see. They put a little bit different pressure on us than we’ve seen this year.”
Lynden starter Breanna Swendt kept the Roughriders off balance the first time through the batting order, but the Roughriders racked up 10 of their 11 runs in the third through five innings.
“She had them on their front foot the first time through, but they adjusted the second time and started making contact.”
Peterson had praise for Steinman, the daughter of Port Angeles coach Randy Steinman.
“Their leadoff hitter is the real deal,” he said. “I told her dad to put his credit cards away because he should have gotten frequent flier mileage for those two home runs.”
The pressure that Port Angeles applied in the middle game with its aggressive base running was something that Petersen expected. But that wasn’t the problem.
“You can prepare for teams that are aggressive on the bases,” he said. “What you can’t prepare for is how fast they are. And not only were they really fast, they were really efficient. It’s hard to keep out of big innings when that happens.”
The Lions bounced back strongly from the opening loss, scoring five runs in the top of the first off their elimination game against Sequim. But the Lions coughed up an 8-6 lead in the sixth inning, eventually losing, 11-10.
Fredin had another monster three-run home run to straight-away center field as Lynden took a 5-0 lead to open the game. But the Wolves came right back with five runs in their half of the first – three of those coming on Emily Copeland’s mammoth home run to center field.
Sequim slammed five hits in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring five runs to take an 11-8 lead.
Lynden rallied in the seventh. Megan Paoli singled, Fredin slapped a double to score Paoli and Morgan Black drove in Fredin with a single the cut the deficit to one run. But the next two batters were set down in order.