The Sunnyside Christian High School Lady Knights will be making a second consecutive appearance at the 1B State fastpitch softball tournament.
Sunnyside Christian earned this region's one and only berth to State by winning the District 5/6 title this past Saturday.
The District championship game, staged on the Sunnyside High School varsity field, was a bit on the anti-climactic side. The Lady Knights, behind a one-hitter tossed by Makayla Morrow, throttled the Lyle/Wishram Cougars, 14-0.
The District title game victory improved Sunnyside Christian's overall record on the season to 19-4.
"We felt pretty confident going into Saturday afternoon's championship game against Lyle," said SCHS Coach Sandy Harris, explaining the Cougars had just come off an extra-inning 11-10 decision against Thorp. The game before that, Lyle had played a loser-out game against Klickitat, a hard fought 7-3 affair.
"Lyle had to play two games Saturday before we met them, the last one a nine-inning game. After our opening game win against Thorp in Saturday morning's semi-finals, we got to sit back and just rest up and wait, so we were feeling pretty good about the championship game match-up," Harris said.
Morrow was the catalyst for Sunnyside Christian in the District championship contest. Not only did she allow just one hit, the sophomore hurler set 11 Lyle batters down on strikes. Because the title game was shortened to five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule, that meant Morrow's teammates only had to make four outs behind her.
"Makayla pitched real well in both games on Saturday," Harris said. "It got a little sticky for us in that first game, in the semi-finals, the first few innings, but Makayla helped get us out of a couple of jams."
Morrow also came through with one of the eight hits Sunnyside Christian managed off Lyle pitcher Carly Roth in the title contest, that coming in the first frame, when the Lady Knights took an early 3-0 lead.
Also coming through big at the plate for Sunnyside Christian in the championship contest were Emily Bangs, 2-for-3 with an RBI; and Grace den Hoed and Danika DeGroot, each of whom went 2-for-4 with two RBI apiece. The one other hit collected by the Lady Knights in the title tilt was a fifth inning single off the bat of freshman Mary Filicetti.
To advance to Saturday's championship game Sunnyside Christian knocked off the Thorp Tigers, 6-0, in the semi-finals. DeGroot and den Hoed, as they did in the final game of the day, carried the big bats to the plate. DeGroot went 3-for-3 while driving in three runs, and den Hoed was 2-for-3 with one RBI.
Unlike the final game of the day, however, the Lady Knights weren't as dominating against Thorp. The Tigers got two runners aboard in both the first and second innings, and had the bases loaded in the top of the third.
"We might have had some District tournament jitters going on in those first few innings Saturday morning," said Harris, detailing that both of the errors her club committed that game came in the first three innings, as did all three of the walks that Morrow issued for the game.
To their credit, the Lady Knights stiffened all three innings and kept Thorp at bay.
With two Tigers aboard in the first frame, Morrow fanned two batters, then induced a harmless grounder to second to get out of the inning.
In the second, an infield error and a walk resulted in Thorp getting runners to first and second with no outs. Morrow fielded a grounder from the next hitter and threw her out at first, then set the next batter down on strikes. A line drive to left from the next Thorp hitter could have easily plated the two Tigers on second and third, but left fielder Jenna den Hoed, only a freshman who's playing her first year of organized ball, raced in and gloved the screamer before the ball could drop to the turf.
In the top of the third Thorp mounted its only other serious threat, loading the bases after Sunnyside Christian already had two outs in the books. A single off Morrow, a walk and a hit batter put Tigers on each of the three pillows, but the rally got snuffed when Morrow gloved a hotshot grounder up the middle and took the easy out at first.
"After that, we settled down nicely," said Harris. "No more errors, no more walks, we played very solid from that point on."
In looking ahead to the 1B State tourney, to be staged this coming Friday and Saturday at Yakima's Kiwanis fields, Sunnyside Christian will be taking on a familiar foe, Almira Coulee-Hartline, in its 1 p.m. opener. ACH was the team that dealt the Lady Knights both their losses in last year's State tourney, the last meeting a 1-0 affair that came in the State trophy round game that decided third and fourth-place honors.
Win or lose this Friday at 1 p.m., Sunnyside Christian will play at 5 p.m. that same day. Saturday's State tournament games, if the Lady Knights are still alive fighting for a trophy, are scheduled for 2 and 4 p.m.