YAKIMA - With just four trophies up for grabs, the Sunnyside Christian High School Lady Knights came through in a big way this past weekend.
Competing at the WIAA 1B State Fastpitch Softball Tournament, the Lady Knights earned the fourth-place hardware. Sunnyside Christian finished as high as fourth one other time at State.
To say that SCHS Coach Sandy Harris is pleased with her team's performance at State is an under-statement.
"I'm really happy," said Harris.
"Other than a couple of bumps, we got some great defensive play from our team, some outstanding pitching and at times some timely hitting," she said.
The most crucial of the four games the Lady Knights played at this year's State tourney, staged at the Kiwanis fields in Yakima, was early Saturday afternoon. Their opponent...the Cusick Panthers, with the winner moving on into the trophy round and the loser calling it a season.
The Panthers went tit-for-tat with Sunnyside Christian, refusing to fold each time the Lady Knights pushed a run across the plate. The offensive leaders for Sunnyside Christian included Analisa Van Oostrum, 3-for-4 at the dish, and Julie Long and Makayla Morrow, each of whom banged out a pair of hits.
Heading into its last at-bat in the top of the seventh, Sunnyside Christian was clinging to a one-run lead, at 5-4.
The Lady Knights added on an insurance score in the seventh, thanks to a lead-off triple by the freshman Morrow. She actually scored on the play, though, when the outfielder, in getting the ball back to the infield, overthrew the pitcher.
Unlike the earlier innings, Cusick was unable to answer in its half of the seventh. The Panthers lofted three consecutive fly balls to the outfield, two of which were snagged by left fielder Emily Bangs.
"Emily made two excellent catches for us in the bottom of the seventh," said Harris. "She also had a couple nice catches out there in our next game that helped keep us in that one."
The three consecutive fly-outs by Cusick in the bottom of the seventh, preserving Sunnyside Christian's 6-4 victory, advanced the Lady Knights into the third/fourth place game against Almira/Coulee/Hartline.
The Warriors undoubtedly went into the trophy round game full of confidence, considering they had easily handled Sunnyside Christian in the State tourney opener last Friday, winning by a 12-3 score. Turned out, though, that Almira/Coulee/Hartline had to scrap for all it was worth in getting past the Lady Knights a second time.
In the end, the Warriors prevailed, 1-0, to claim the third-place trophy at State, leaving Sunnyside Christian with fourth-place honors.
The closely-contested game was a defensive gem throughout. Both teams, said Harris, "...made some really great plays in the field."
The Warriors plated what turned out to be the only run of the game in the bottom of the third. Following an infield pop-up, Carly Martin ripped a stinger to right. The Sunnyside Christian outfielder raced in to pick the ball up just before it hit the turf, but it got past her. Martin raced all the way to third before the ball was retrieved. The Warrior base runner then scored when the next Almira/Coulee/Hartline batter laid down an infield ground-out.
The closest Sunnyside Christian came to scoring against the Warriors happened in the top of the sixth. Long singled her way aboard, the only hit the Lady Knights could muster off Warrior hurler Madeline Isaak. Long moved up to second on the one passed ball that the Almira/Coulee/Hartline catcher allowed in the game, but the rally died there with Long standing on second.
Isaak, in twirling the one-hit shutout, fanned four Christian batters and walked only two.
"We hit the Isaak girl pretty hard," said Harris, "But most of them ended up being fly-outs to the outfield."
Isaak's performance on the pitching rubber over-shadowed a pretty decent effort, in its own right, by Morrow, the Sunnyside Christian pitcher. The freshman scattered five hits in holding the Warriors to just the one run.
"Makayla was pretty solid in going the distance that game," said Harris.
On Friday when the two clubs first met, it was a totally different scenario. Instead of a defensive stalemate, the Warriors banged out 13 hits enroute to notching the 12-3 win.
Ashley Haak got the start on the pitching rubber that game for Sunnyside Christian, but she got lit up for six hits in just one and a third innings of work. Morrow replaced her early in the second frame, yielding another seven hits in completing the pitching chores.
The Lady Knights scored all three of their runs in the tourney opener against Almira/Coulee/Hartline in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a Janelle DeGroot single and three Warrior errors.
The loss to Almira/Coulee/Hartline in the first game of the tournament dropped the Lady Knights into the consolation bracket. Sunnyside Christian, facing elimination, stormed back with a vengeance, though, beating up on Lake Quinault by an 18-0 score.
DeGroot led the Lady Knights' hit parade late Friday afternoon, banging out three hits in four trips to the plate. She also scored three runs. Also in the victory over Lake Quinault, Long laced a couple of base hits and scored three times, and Gabby Filicetti was 1-for-1 and drew three walks, scoring three runs in the process.
Also aiding the cause were the 12 walks the Lady Knights coaxed off the Lake Quinault pitching staff.
Haak and Morrow combined to shut out Lake Quinault, totaling nine strikeouts between them and only allowing one hit.
That win advanced Sunnyside Christian into the consolation semi-finals against Cusick, eventually on to the third/fourth place game against Almira/Coulee/Hartline.
By posting a 2-2 mark at the State tourney, the Lady Knights closed out the 2010 spring campaign with an overall record of 17-8.
The top two teams at the 1B State tourney proved to be league rivals Colton and Touchet. In their fifth match-up of the season, Colton prevailed by a 5-2 score to snag the championship trophy. The State title game victory was Colton's third win against Touchet this year.