ZILLAH - It didn't come easy, nonetheless, the South Central 'B' League champion Sunnyside Christian Lady Knights won the District title this past Saturday.
Sunnyside Christian defeated Lyle by an 11-5 score in the District tourney title game, after eking out a 6-5 extra inning win over Klickitat in a morning game. The Lady Knights (17-5) will play Entitat on the Central Washington University campus in Ellensburg this coming Saturday in a Regional contest for seeding purposes into the State tourney.
In besting the Lyle Cougars 11-5 in the District championship contest, the Sunnyside Christian High School girls fastpitch softball team blew the game wide open with an eight-run first inning.
The title game was in stark contrast to how the Lady Knights opened District tourney play. Sunnyside Christian had to rally in its first game Saturday from a 5-1 deficit against Klickitat.
SCHS Coach Sandy Harris said she wasn't distraught when the Vandals forged a 5-1 lead on her club through the first two innings of play. "It was only the second inning," she said. "I thought we had a lot of game left.
"But I admit, going into the bottom of the sixth, I was getting a little concerned when we were still trailing 5-1," Harris added.
Not to worry, as her Lady Knights punched three runs across the plate that frame to draw within 5-4. The sixth inning rally began with Carly DeGroot socking a triple over the center fielder's head.
"That triple by Carly really sparked our girls," said Harris. "I think that was the turning point of the game."
Freshman Jenna Van Beek, in a pinch hit role, followed DeGroot's triple by drawing a walk. After Van Beek stole second, freshman Brittany Den Hoed clutched up and laced a shot to right, scoring both DeGroot and Van Beek. Three batters later, sophomore Courtney Rice delivered an RBI single to pull the Lady Knights to within one run of Klickitat.
Sunnyside Christian forced extra innings by squaring the contest at 5-all in the bottom of the seventh. DeGroot again was the catalyst, getting aboard first for the Lady Knights by drawing a walk. After advancing to second on a passed ball, DeGroot crossed the plate with the tying run on an RBI double smacked to right field by the freshmen Den Hoed.
"Brittany (Den Hoed) had a great day Saturday," said Harris.
Shutting down the Vandals in the top of the eighth, Sunnyside Christian went back to work in its half of the frame. Tami Lambrecht and Rice drew back-to-back walks, setting up Emma Hernandez's fly to right. What should have been an easy pop-up ended up being an error when the Klickitat right fielder dropped the ball, allowing Lambrecht to race home with the running run.
Unfortunately for the Vandals, the outfield miscue was the only error they committed in the game, but it was a costly one.
Harris said she was a little surprised that Klickitat played up to a higher level on Saturday morning.
"It was the best game I've seen them play all season," she said.
In advancing to the District title game, the Lady Knights didn't wait long to show Lyle which club was superior. In its first at-bat, Sunnyside Christian scored eight runs, coasting from there for the 11-5 victory. An RBI double by Lambrecht and singles by Rice, Hernandez, Jaqui Roberts, Tori Van Wingerden and Tyssyna Van Wingerden accounted for the eight first-inning scores.
Lyle posted goose eggs in every inning except the fifth, when the Cougars plated all five of their runs on two hits, two walks and two Sunnyside Christian errors.
Picking up both victories for Sunnyside Christian from atop the pitching rubber Saturday was Hernandez. In the District opener against Klickitat, Hernandez scattered five hits, struck out seven and walked only two. She had a similar outing against Lyle-yielding just six hits while fanning four and walking two.
Hernandez, this past weekend, was one of three SCHS players named to the South Central 'B' League all-opponent team. The two other league all-stars from Sunnyside Christian are Lambrecht and Tyssyna Van Wingerden. This year's league MVP was McMurrin, the pitcher for Lyle.