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Falcons hope to strongarm district

"Armed with two strong arms, coach Renee Christian likes her team's chances in today's Northwest District AA fastpitch tournament in Tacoma.They stand a chance of playing four games in a single day, which should give an advantage to a team with two strong pitchers, Christian theorized earlier this week.In fastpitch, unlike baseball, pitchers can throw all day long. But being human they do tire, and Christian hopes that after the first couple of games she'll have a fresh arm on the rubber while the opposition arm is dragging in the dirt.Some fastpitch teams depend solely on one pitcher, but Christian has the luxury of two who can dominate the opposition. Both are freshmen, and one's a lefty and one's a righty.The lefty, Val Mock, is the staff ace. She gets the call against the toughest opponents and always gives her team a chance to win. She'll start the first game today.But not far behind Mock on the skill level is her longtime teammate and good friend Angela Lopez, the right hander.Mock sported an outstanding 1.35 earned run average this year, while Lopez' ERA was an impressive 2.90.We've been pitching five years together, Mock said after the Falcons won their final home game Thursday, a 4-0 bi-district victory over Steilacoom. We're on the same team every year.She and Lopez agree on the secret of being a good fastpitch thrower. Technique, Lopez explained. They key is mechanics.The complex underhand fastpitch windup is not an easy skill to learn, and Mock said she and Lopez benefitted from attending many clinics, and from experts who came to South Whidbey to teach aspiring pitchers. They represent the first generation of South Whidbey Little League girls who have started with fastpitch and followed the sport into high school. Until only a few years ago, South Whidbey High School girls played slowpitch.Thursday's game showed what good pitching can do. Mock wasn't as dominating a strikeout pitcher as she sometimes is, but she walked only one and was supported by an errorless performance by Falcon fielders.It was really smart, heads-up playing, said coach Christian, commending Marianna Norby, Julie Robinson, Keasha Campbell and Jenny Murphy for particularly outstanding play.The Falcon hitters were led by Lauren Johnson with a double and RBI, Julie Robinson with a double, Marianna Norby with a run-scoring single, and the RBI hits of Mock and Jenny Murphy.South Whidbey took a 4 run lead into the final inning and Mock quickly ended any hope of a comeback that Steilacoom may have harbored. The first batter expired when second baseman Julie Robinson made a sparkling diving catch of a line drive; the second popped up to Marianna Norby at short; and Mock executed the final out herself by throwing a dribbler back to the mound to first.Today is the first district appearance for the fastpitch team and the going won't be easy. Their opening opponent is Foster, a highly regarded team from Tacoma.But Mock and Lopez are only freshmen, and this weekend is likely the first of many district, and possibly state, playoff games in the future.We back each other up. We like to play and we like to have fun, Lopez said.This year, the two pitchers helped the Falcons learn the secret of having fun.Winning is fun, Mock said."

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