Stellar defense, rock-solid pitching, strong play behind the plate and clutch hitting...Sunnyside Christian had it all working yesterday afternoon.
"I thought our whole team was really focused," Lady Knight fastpitch softball coach Sandy Harris said gleefully.
Harris was referring to Wednesday's 5-3 victory over the visiting Klickitat Vandals, the win coming in the first round of the 1B District playoffs. The postseason continues for Sunnyside Christian this coming Saturday, when the Lady Knights take on either Lyle or Thorp in the District semi-finals at 10 a.m. on the Sunnyside High School varsity field. The double-elimination tourney will wrap up later in the day, with only one of the four District qualifiers getting to move on to the State tourney.
Yesterday's District opening win was truly a team effort on the part of the Lady Knights (17-4).
As with most fastpitch teams, it starts with the battery mates, and hurler Makayla Morrow and catcher Danika DeGroot, both sophomores, delivered big time.
Morrow yielded just four hits, three of them coming in the top of the fourth, which means she only gave up one other hit in the other six innings of play. Morrow fanned five along the way while walking no one.
The three runs Klickitat did score, all in the fourth, were unearned. The Vandals who got aboard and crossed the plate all did so after a two-out error was committed, the only fielding miscue Sunnyside Christian had on the day.
"Makayla (Morrow) did another super job for us. She made it very tough on Klickitat's hitters," said Harris.
DeGroot, behind the plate, was equally as impressive, not allowing one single pitch to get past her.
"In fact, I don't think Danika dropped a single pitch the entire game," said Harris.
Defensively, the Lady Knights rose to the occasion, recording 16 cleanly played outs to go along with the five strikeouts that Morrow had.
"With Klickitat putting that many pitches into play, you'd have to say our defense kept us in the game," Harris said.
"Analisa VanOostrum was very strong at short, and Emily Bangs at third and Devi Knotts at second made a lot of nice plays.
"Emily, especially. I think it might have been her best game of the season," said Harris, detailing how Bangs made three hotshot grounders look like routine fielding plays.
The gem for Bangs, though, had to be a screamer down the line in the top of the seventh that surely would have gone for extra bases. The SCHS third baseman, cat-like, snared the line drive to take the air out of the Vandals' balloon.
"All in all, with both our infield and outfield, we played some of our best ball of the season," said Harris.
Hitting-wise, Sunnyside Christian got the party started in the bottom of the second. The catcher DeGroot got the first of two singles she had on the day to open the frame, moving up to second on a passed ball. Older sister Janelle DeGroot clutched up and came through with a single of her own to drive in her younger sibling. Jenna den Hoed, the team's left fielder, followed with yet another single to push the older DeGroot to third. Right fielder Gabby Filicetti then laid down a sacrifice bunt that upped the Lady Knights' lead to 2-0.
Center fielder Grace den Hoed made it a 3-0 Sunnyside Christian lead when she lashed a double in the bottom half of the third, eventually scoring after a passed ball and an error was committed by the Vandals, one of three miscues Klickitat had in the game.
The Vandals, in their one and only big inning, tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fourth, but Sunnyside Christian wasted no time in regaining the advantage. In the last of the fourth, Filicetti drew a walk, went to second on a passed ball and scampered home with the go-ahead run on a ringing double off the bat of VanOostrum.
The Lady Knights added an insurance score in the fifth. Knotts, who worked a free pass from the Klickitat hurler, stole second and ended up at third when the catcher's pick-off throw ended up in the outfield. Knotts crossed the dish with Sunnyside Christian's fifth run of the game when a grounder put into play by the younger DeGroot was misplayed.