YAKIMA - A stingy defense, coupled with a dare devil approach on the base paths, powered the Sunnyside Christian High School girls fastpitch softball team to a fourth place finish at the 'B' State tournament, held at Yakima's Gateway Sports Complex this past weekend.
For the four-year-old SCHS fastpitch program, it was the school's first ever State trophy. The Lady Knights posted three wins at the tourney, including an exciting 2-1 victory in the quarter-finals over the two-time defending State champion Morton Huskies.
"Our defense and our aggressive base running really helped us out," said SCHS Coach Sandy Harris.
"The way we were running the bases the whole tournament, as aggressive as we were, it did wonders for us," she said.
Sunnyside Christian advanced to Saturday's State tournament semi-finals with back-to-back wins on the opening day of the tourney last Friday. The Lady Knights were forced to an International Tiebreaker in their opener against the DeSales Irish, but prevailed in the end by a 5-4 score. In the quarter-finals, Sunnyside Christian rallied with lone tallies in the sixth and seventh innings to pull out a 2-1 win over heavily favored Morton.
The Mossyrock Vikings, the 2002 State champs and this year's runners-up to Toutle Lake, dealt the Lady Knights their first loss of the tourney in the semi-finals. Mossyrock scored two runs in the bottom of the first and made them stand up for a narrow 2-1 win.
The defeat dropped Sunnyside Christian into the consolation finals, but it didn't dampen the spirits of the Lady Knights. The SCHS girls rebounded for a 4-3 decision over the Touchet Indians, which propelled Sunnyside Christian into the trophy round game against Morton for third and fourth place honors. Morton made the most of its second encounter against the Lady Knights, avenging the earlier 2-1 defeat to Sunnyside Christian by eking out a 3-2 victory.
With its 3-2 record at the State tourney, Sunnyside Christian finished the 2005 campaign with an overall mark of 24-5.
According to Harris, the season couldn't have played out any better.
She explained that heading into spring training, the team set some lofty goals for itself.
"We wanted to go undefeated in league play, then win the District and Regional titles, and finally bring home a trophy from State," she said.
"We did all that. It's nice to set those kinds of goals and then reach them," she exclaimed. "This team, they just wouldn't ever let up.
"It's been a true team effort all season.
"We're already excited about looking ahead to next year," Harris continued. "We only lose two seniors, and our five sophomores on the team will be juniors next year, which means we'll have lots of experience. Plus, we have three or four freshmen coming into the program.
"We can't wait," she added.
Forced to extra innings, the game went to an International Tiebreaker where each team opened the ninth with a runner on second. DeSales started the ninth and left its runner stranded on second. Sunnyside Christian, with Brittany den Hoed starting the frame standing on second, scored the winning run when den Hoed advanced to third on a passed ball and came in to score when the DeSales catcher overthrew third.
The Lady Knights punched in two runs in the bottom of the third, with Emily Hernandez's RBI single being the key blow. She finished the game 2-for-4 at the plate, with den Hoed adding a 2-for-5 offensive performance.
De 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 -4 13 3
S 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 -5 7 0
Mejnus and Jensen. Hernandez (9 k's) and Ty. Van Wingerden. Hits-(SCHS) Hernandez 2/4, den Hoed 2/5.
With two outs, Hernandez singled to open the seventh, moved to second on a passed ball and scored the winning run when the Morton shortstop threw wide of the first base bag on a grounder put into play by Carly DeGroot.
Sunnyside Christian tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth after Emma Newhouse singled her way aboard and came round to score on an RBI single by den Hoed.
Harris praised the defensive efforts of her club against the two-time defending State champion Morton Huskies, singling out a shoestring catch by center fielder Jacqui Roberts as a prime example of her team's excellent play in the field.
Morton 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 -1 2 1
SCHS 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 -2 3 2
Ramsey (8 K's) and Gaut. Hernandez (3 K's) and Ty. Van Wingerden. Hits-(SCHS) Newhouse 1B, den Hoed 1B, Hernandez 1B.
The Mossyrock Vikings plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, after Sunnyside Christian took a short-lived 1-0 lead in the top half of the frame, and made the two scores stand up for the win.
"We had some opportunities to score, but we just didn't take advantage of them," said Harris. "We couldn't string anything together."
Junior Kelsey Forrest scattered five hits and struck out seven Sunnyside Christian batters. Hernandez actually only allowed three Mossyrock hits, but four errors committed behind her, two coming in the opening inning, led to the defeat.
The third baseman den Hoed scored Sunnyside Christian's lone run of the game, opening the game with a leadoff double and coming round to score on a groundout.
SCHS 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 -1 5 4
Mossy. 2 0 0 0 0 0 x -2 3 0
Hernandez (5 K's) and Ty. Van Wingerden. Forrest (7 K's) and Logan.
Sophomore Tori Van Wingerden and older sister Tyssyna, a senior, each came up with two hits to spearhead Sunnyside Christian's 4-3 victory over the Touchet Indians.
Each of the sisters singled in the fifth inning, when the Lady Knights scored twice; and each singled again in the seventh, when Sunnyside Christian scored what would prove to be the winning run.
SCHS 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 -4 8 1
Touchet 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 -3 8 2
Hernandez (2 K's) and Ty. Van Wingerden. Weber, Sampson (5) and Kelsay. Hits-(SCHS) To. Van Wingerden 2/4, Ty. Van Wingerden 2/5.
The Morton Huskies tallied single scores in the second, third and fifth innings to pull out a 3-2 victory over Sunnyside Christian. The win gave the two-time defending State champs a third place finish at this year's tourney.
The Lady Knights squared the contest at 1-all by plating a run in the bottom of the second. Hernandez, who singled, stole second and raced home on a ball Newhouse put into play that was misplayed for an error. Sunnyside Christian scored its second run of the game in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to Courtney Rice lashing a single and taking second on a bobble by the Morton outfielder. Hernandez took advantage of the Husky miscue, rapping a single to score Rice.
Morton 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 -3 5 1
SCHS 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 -2 6 3
Ramsey (6 K's) and Gaut. Hernandez (1 K) and Ty. Van Wingerden. Hits-(SCHS) Hernandez 3/3, Berkompas 1B, Rice 1B, den Hoed 1B.